Perspectives from the field: Serving in and out of uniformColleen served in the US Coast Guard for over eight years. Drawn to the Coast Guard’s humanitarian mission, Colleen joined at the age of 17. By 23 years old, she was the lead law enforcement officer for a ship with an all-male crew. The grueling job involved navigating rough seas, pulling people out of the water, delivering resources after a hurricane, stopping drugs from landing onshore — no two days were the same. Colleen embraced the challenge, learning the value of teamwork, serving her country, and saving lives. After leaving the Coast Guard, Colleen still wanted to serve her country in some capacity. After studying international public policy in graduate school, Colleen joined Spirit of America where she currently serves as the Regional Director for Europe. Every day, Colleen continues to work alongside her brothers and sisters in uniform while also doing work that supports US diplomats and bolsters national security.
“A big reason why a lot of us joined Spirit of America is that we served our nation as veterans and we’re still looking to serve in some capacity. This is a way for us to still help out our brothers and sisters that are wearing the uniform, while also doing work that affects our diplomats, while also doing work that affects the national security picture.”Moreover, through Spirit of America, Colleen demonstrates American partnership and goodwill to local communities across Europe. From donating gym equipment to elementary schools in Moldova to providing agricultural supplies to local farmers in Montenegro to combat the food crisis at the height of the pandemic, Colleen works with US government and international partners to find local solutions for local problems, impacting countless lives in real time when and where the government is unable to do so. Colleen was serving in the Coast Guard when the massive earthquake of 2010 devastated Port au Prince, Haiti. Her Cutter arrived on the scene first and started delivering aid. While it meant a lot for an American vessel to be the first responder, their supplies were limited. Looking back on the experience, Colleen reflected, “While we did as much as we could, there was still so much more we could have done and lives that could have been saved. The strength of the American flag could have carried a lot further. Had I known about Spirit of America, it would have been the first organization that we would have called.” Colleen has dedicated most of her life to proudly serving her country, both in and out of uniform. Whether in the Coast Guard or on the Spirit of America team, Colleen has worked to improve lives, enhance US partnerships, and support US diplomatic and military missions around the world.