Secretary Anthony Foxx
National Maritime Day
Washington, DC • May 22, 2014
Thank you, Chip.
- General Paul J. Selva, United States Transportation Command,
- Rear Admiral T. K. Shannon, Commander, Military Sealift Command,
- Sister Myrna Tordillo, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and
- CAPT David Oravec, MSC Force Chaplain
You know, someone – I think it was Van Gogh, who watched the sea to paint it (and who presumably saw fisherman sailing away) – said that “The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
Of course, Van Gogh was Dutch. And he based his observation off watching the European coast in the 19th century. But had he lived longer – had he lived to watch the coast of Europe, say, during World War II– I think he would’ve added another line to the statement.
And line would be: “The same is true for the merchant marines. They know the danger, and still they go to sea, too.”
Because it was America’s merchant mariners who approach the coast of Europe in the summer of 1944. They packed the jeeps and the howitzers on the ships – not to mention, the soldiers, too– and then called out, “Up anchor” and made their way towards Normandy.
Today, this generation of mariners carries on that legacy, that heroism.
After all, sixty years after D-Day, and minutes after planes hit the Twin Towers, it was again our mariners who piloted their boats towards Lower Manhattan. There were half-a-million people trying to flee there. And they were going to get them.
Without an organized effort . . . without a central leader… they came from the Hudson River, the upper bay, and the Morris Canal. They came with ferries, sightseeing boats, tugs and other working craft. And by dusk, they’d accomplished the largest waterborne evacuation in world history– larger than Dunkirk.
But that’s not all…
When the earthquake hit in Haiti, our merchant mariners were there to help.
In the days after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, they were there, too.
And right now, as I speak, there are merchant mariners aboard the Cape Ray, making it possible to destroy Syrian chemical weapons.
In the proclamation you just heard Chip read, the President said that our mariners “go beyond the mission. And you do.
He that said because of you, “people around the world continue to see the American flag as a symbol of hope.” And that’s true, too – they do.
You are a symbol of hope. A horn in the fog. A light on the horizon.
So, to all our mariners today: Thank you all for your service and your sacrifice.
Know that this Department and our President support you in all your work – and that our support for you doesn’t just start and end with today.
We’re working every day to strengthen our fleet, rebuild our ports, and keep our Merchant Marine the finest in the world.
You deserve nothing less.
Thank you again, and enjoy National Maritime Day!
# # #