From left: Maeve Roach, President Joe Biden, Paul Roach | Photo provided

Maeve Roach is a newly-commissioned ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard. The 22-year-old shares a passion for government service with her father, Navy Captain Paul Roach. Their devotion to duty culminated in a meeting with President Joe Biden at the 140th Coast Guard Commencement Ceremony, on May 19, 2021, at the academy in New London, Connecticut.

Paul had the privilege of joining Maeve onstage to present her with her commission. They then shook hands with Biden who assured Maeve, “You’re just as good as any man. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not equal. You’re fully capable of achieving anything you set your mind to.”

Maeve proudly introduced her dad. “Mr. President, this is my father, Captain Paul Roach.” Biden told Paul, “Thank you for your service and for showing her how it’s done.” During his address, he praised Maeve and her class of cadets, “You’re the most progressive, best educated, least prejudiced, most open generation in American history. We need you badly.”

Serving in the military isn’t for everyone, but Maeve was literally born into it at Andrews Air Force Base. The Roach family moved around like most military families but finally landed in Forest Park when Maeve was in grammar school. She attended St. Bernardine School, where her mom, Megan, served as athletic director.

Maeve grew up in a brick bungalow on Marengo, with a photo of the U.S. Naval Academy above her bed. She had always wanted to join the military but wasn’t aware the Coast Guard even existed. After she graduated with St. Bernardine’s final class in 2013, Maeve became interested in all the academies. During her junior year at Nazareth Academy, the Coast Guard became her number one choice.

Students who apply for the other military academies require a senator’s recommendation but the Coast Guard accepts cadets on a merit basis. High school activities count a great deal and Maeve had those nailed. She played point guard for the basketball team, before switching to cross country and track. She had always excelled at sports, having played youth soccer and basketball in Forest Park.

When it came to running, though, Maeve was off the charts. She qualified for state in cross country and set the school record for the 400 meters. She would continue her running career in the Coast Guard, setting records for 600 and 800 meters. She recently represented the Coast Guard at the Division III Track and Field Nationals.

Competing in track was one of the many activities that kept her busy at the academy. As Paul said, “College is hard but the academy is much harder.” Maeve’s day began at 6 a.m. with military formation and training. She attended class from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. before going off to practice. Maeve earned her degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.

After graduation, she had to select a mission. The Coast Guard has many missions, including protecting borders and the environment. Maeve chose a mission that is increasingly critical: cyber security. She is assigned to Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, DC.

Paul, meanwhile, is retiring from the Navy on June 12 but will continue to practice medicine at a VA facility. He and his wife are proud of Maeve and her classmates but equally proud of Maeve’s sisters, Helen and Fiona, who attended the ceremony and the Commencement Ball.

Paul said it’s a special thrill to see Maeve starting her military career, just as his is coming to an end. “It’s literally like passing the baton.”

An apt analogy for a former track star from Forest Park. 

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.