It's difficult to imagine Ketchikan without the U.S. Coast Guard.

Not only has Base Ketchikan been a local landmark for more than 80 years, but it has attracted hundreds upon hundreds of people to the community.

Some came for a tour of duty and never returned to the First City, although they made acquaintances and memories while here. Others came and then came back. Yet others retired and stayed or returned to make Ketchikan their home forever or almost forever.

They were, or are, our neighbors and our friends. We serve in local organizations with them; we attend school and church with them and their families. Some become our family — actually or in practice.

They're here to serve. To uphold maritime safety and security. To protect not only maritime industry and recreation near Ketchikan and throughout Southeast, but, as a branch of the armed services, to look out for the welfare of all things maritime along more than 47,000 miles of the state's shorelines.

Between duty, civilian, reserve and auxiliary members, the Coast Guard represents about 2,500 Alaskans statewide.

Throughout the state, it employs cutters, buoy tenders, helicopters and icebreakers to achieve its mission.

During an average month, its membership saves 22 lives, assists 53 people, reports and investigates 25 marine casualties, performs 143 commercial fishing vessel safety exams, saves more than $1.65 million in property and performs 95 marine inspections.

The Coast Guard has been on guard in Alaska since 1867.

The Guard itself has existed since 1790.

This week its marks its 230th anniversary, and Ketchikan acknowledges the role it has and continues to play as a vital part of the community, the region and the state. It's been a good run — one which we hope will continue for the safety of Alaskans and well-being of Alaska for a long time yet.

We applaud the U.S. Coast Guard.