By Masha Rumer
MSC Public Affairs
|Air Force Gen. William Fraser, commander, U.S. Transportation Command, and Rear Adm. Mark Buzby, commander, MSC, salute as they honor America’s merchant mariners.|
U.S. Navy photo by Barry Lake
Military Sealift Command celebrated National Maritime Day in Washington May 22. Air Force Gen. William M. Fraser III, commander, U.S. Transportation Command, and Navy Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, commander, Military Sealift Command, headlined the annual ceremony honoring U.S. merchant mariners at the Washington Navy Yard.
Government and maritime industry leaders were among the more than 200 guests attending the commemoration.
Merchant mariners have been the backbone of U.S. security and prosperity since the nation's founding, capturing the first British vessel in the War of Independence and delivering vital supplies during virtually every conflict since. Today, more than 80 percent of MSC's nearly 10,000-member strong workforce are civil service and contract mariners operating more than 100 ships around the globe on a daily basis.
"I can't think of a better place to be to celebrate Maritime Day," said Fraser. "America is grateful for your commitment to excellence and devotion to duty... We absolutely depend on you."
The formal military ceremony included the presentation of wreaths to commemorate those mariners who perished while serving the nation. Guests stood and a member of the U.S. Navy Band Brass Quintet played "Taps," accompanied by a gun salute.
Information Systems Technician Seaman Apprentice Timothy Shirley, MSC Sailor of the Quarter; Apprentice Jason Knapp from Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education at Piney Point, Md. and Midshipman Christopher Bernard from U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. served as wreath tenders.
The wreaths were later placed at the mariner bronze relief sculpture at the Navy Memorial in downtown Washington.
"We at MSC are proud of our civilian mariners, so it is fitting that today is set aside to acknowledge the great debt of gratitude we owe to the dedicated men and women of the U.S. Merchant Marine," said Buzby.
Army Lt. Col. Timothy D. Walls, command chaplain, U.S. Transportation Command, read the invocation, while Capt. Robert T. Wiley, MSC ship's master, led the responsive reading. The memorial prayer and the benediction were led by Capt. Paul L. Burmeister, MSC force chaplain.
During the ceremony, the U.S. Navy Band Brass Quintet played the national anthem and "God Bless America." Erin C. Gantt from MSC's Prepositioning Program sang "The Navy Hymn" and closed the ceremony with the official merchant mariner song, "Heave Ho, My Lads, Heave Ho," joined by Buzby.