National Hispanic Heritage Month: The Shaffers

LTJG Shaffer Feature

Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Lt. j.g. Dwight Shaffer, assistant chief of enforcement, Sector Juneau, and his wife, Ginnette

For Dwight and Ginnette, life in the Coast Guard is more than an adventurous career; it’s also what brought the two together!

Dwight met Ginnette in Puerto Rico, her home, when the Coast Guard moved him there in 2000. When he left two years later, he wasn’t alone. Since then they have traveled to many units, including Dwight’s successful completion of Officer Candidacy School, and are now in Juneau, Alaska, with their children, thousands of miles from Ginnette’s home in Puerto Rico.

When Worlds Collide

While Dwight and Ginnette may just be two people, they brought along two expansive, unique cultures: his adopted Coast Guard family and her Puerto Rican family. One would move their house all over the country and the other would make sure they were home no matter where they landed.

“Even being way out here in Alaska, a lot of her family has come to visit,” said Dwight. “I think that’s special. I think that attests to how close-knit her family is; to come all the way out to Alaska to visit her.”

For Ginnette, her newfound Coast Guard family meant a whole lot of adventure.

“During my husband’s career I have learned to be very supportive about his decisions on where he wants to go in the Coast Guard,” said Ginnette. “Even though it’s very difficult to move around, get a new job, and make new friends every couple years, it’s been an amazing experience.”

Embracing Culture

Coast Guard personnel are stationed in every corner of the United States, protecting mariners and the environment wherever duty calls them. The Shaffer family is an important part of what makes the Coast Guard function. However, they are still individuals with a need to belong, to be a part of the places they are stationed. That’s where the local community comes into play.

“No matter where I get transferred, all the Puerto Ricans take me in as if I’m part of their family,” said Dwight. “I felt like I was in Puerto Rico instantly. It’s just a very accepting culture.”

The life of a Coast Guard spouse has its challenges, but the benefits have made the transition more feasible for Ginnette.

“Being a Coast Guard spouse is great for a variety of reasons for our family, like great medical insurance, job security, and getting to experience a lot of different cultures and locations because of the orders that he gets,” she said. “I also enjoy meeting other Coast Guard spouses and spending time with them.”

“One thing that’s consistent is the Coast Guard culture,” said Dwight. “No matter where we live, it’s the same, so she’s able to relate with it immediately.”

Celebrating Heritage

No matter how far they move from Puerto Rico, the rich culture is still very much a part of the Shaffer family.

“It’s great to celebrate Hispanic heritage with my family,” said Ginnette. “I try to speak to our children in Spanish whenever possible and I take them to Spanish story time at the local library.”

Some people are born into Hispanic culture, and some get the chance to marry into it. Either way, Hispanic heritage makes up an important part of the diverse Coast Guard family.

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