Many people don't realize that the Coast Guard is the least funded of all our country's military branches. The Coast Guard Foundation is dedicated to providing members of the United States Coast Guard with programs that promote their education, welfare, health, training and morale, providing vital assistance to the Coast Guard's 43,000 members — especially when they need it most. Through these services, the Foundation is always focused on bettering the lives of those who serve in the Coast Guard every day.
The Foundation supports Coast Guard members and their families through a variety of scholarships and grants for higher education. Grants for enlisted personnel cover expenses not covered by the G.I. bill or the Coast Guard's tuition assistance programs, items such as textbooks, lab fees and calculators. Each year, we provide 1,200 education grants to enlisted personnel so they can complete their college education while continuing to serve our country.
Our scholarships are one of the most popular programs we have. The students who benefit from these funds are high-achieving individuals with strong character and leadership skills.
Serving the future leaders of the Coast Guard is a key initiative for the Foundation, as well. That's why we donate more than $1 million to the Coast Guard Academy annually in support of academic enrichment, leadership development programs and athletics. The Academy is a top-tier educational institution, and the Foundation's robust support allows it to maintain its competitive edge when recruiting students.
Supporting the men and women on the front lines of the Coast Guard helps ensure these dedicated individuals have opportunities to excel on or off duty. In cooperation with the Vice Commandant's office, the Foundation identifies needs to make our donations as effective as possible. These margin-of-excellence programs may be something as simple as a set of mountain bikes donated to a small boat station in Hawaii, or something like computer software for a cutter crew to learn critical foreign languages so they can better perform their duties. These types of projects are provided for with the Foundation's Shipmate Fund.
In times of need, the Coast Guard Foundation acts as a lifeline to active duty personnel. When a family or Coast Guard unit is faced with the unthinkable loss of a loved one in the line of duty, the Foundation steps in and provides immediate financial relief, whether it's a care package, or paying for an airline ticket for a family member to attend her loved one's memorial service. The Foundation offers a robust support system for families in the wake of tragedies through The Fallen Heroes Fund.