Seafarers Recognized at Memorial Day, Maritime Day Events


July 2012

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Beginning on May 22 – National Maritime Day – and continuing a week later on Memorial Day, U.S. Merchant Mariners were honored during ceremonies across the country as well as in written statements from the administration, Congress and fellow trade unionists.


SIU members and officials participated in various observances in California, Texas, Guam, the nation’s capital and elsewhere. (The Washington, D.C. events of May 22 were covered in detail in the May issue of the LOG.)


On Memorial Day, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood used his “Fast Lane” blog to remind readers of the historic sacrifices of America’s mariners. He wrote about a ceremony one day earlier commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, and pointed out, “Even when they are not called to active duty, many of America’s merchant mariners serve their nation through sealift operations that support our military overseas. During the Vietnam War, 172 ships were activated from the National Defense Reserve Fleet and assigned to commercial shippers to support American military forces.”


He then described the dangers faced by civilian mariners supporting our troops in Vietnam. Finally, LaHood wrote that the mariners who died during the war “served on ships that brought mail, helicopters, ammunition, food, medical supplies, and more. They carried troops and brought home many of those whose names are found on the Vietnam Memorial.


"U.S. Merchant Mariners have paid the ultimate sacrifice in conflicts across our nation’s history. For their service, we say thank you.”


For Maritime Day, in addition to the traditional White House proclamation saluting the service and value of seafarers, communications were issued by Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.),U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department(TTD).


Warner credited merchant mariners “for their dedication to promoting commerce and protecting our freedom. The United States Merchant Marine … has served our country honorably. It has met our country’s economic and security needs whether in wartime or in peace.”


Hirono directed her message specifically to Aloha State maritime workers.


“More than 10,000 hardworking maritime and longshore workers literally help to keep our state going by bringing in the goods we rely upon,” she stated. “Without their commitment to transporting cargo and people, our islands would come to a standstill…. We also pay tribute to the U.S. Merchant Mariners who work to transport cargo to ports around the world. Their service and sacrifice have helped to defend our nation by connecting service members to the supplies they need, often in treacherous and unstable situations. In addition, the efforts of our merchant mariners enable American exports to enter the global marketplace, maintaining essential domestic and international trade networks that strengthen our national economy.”


She concluded, “The maritime community reminds us of the importance of the Jones Act to ensure efficient, reliable shipping to Hawaii. Warmest mahalo to all who work on our waterways and around the world on this National Maritime Day.”


The TTD, in addition to thanking maritime workers, said the industry must be maintained and strengthened.“


A strong maritime industry is critical to our multi-modal transportation system and economy, and it plays a critical role in protecting national security,” the department’s statement pointed out. “But because our ships and navigation channels are not as visible as congested highways, aging bridges and deteriorating transit systems, funding for our ports and waterways is far too often pushed down the priority list. This neglect must end.


“We also renew our vigorous support for a strong, privately owned U.S.-flag fleet through policies such as U.S. cargo preference laws and the Jones Act. These laws are essential if the U.S. is to keep an adequate pool of trained mariners capable of meeting sealift objectives….


“The skilled employees in the maritime industry work tirelessly to keep our country and our economy moving, often in dangerous and trying circumstances. It is especially appropriate to pause today and thank these workers who risk their lives to preserve our freedom and our economic strength around the world.”



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