WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command celebrated National Maritime Day at a ceremony co-hosted with the U.S. Maritime Administration at MARAD's headquarters May 22.
Over 200 government and maritime industry leaders and guests attended the commemoration.
In 1933, Congress established May 22 as National Maritime Day. The day officially honors the contributions and sacrifices of U.S. merchant mariners in defense of the nation. These dedicated men and women are regarded as the unsung heroes in defense of the nation.
Guest speaker Navy Rear Adm. T.K. Shannon, MSC commander, paid tribute to over 6,500 U.S. merchant mariners who serve aboard MSC's ships. The admiral highlighted the mariners' critical support to U.S. and allied warfighters around the world.
"Each day, on every merchant marine ship around the world, we should remember to stand on the deck plate to look our mariners in the eye and thank them for their service," said Shannon, a Maine Maritime Academy graduate.
MARAD Administrator David Matsuda spoke about the "teamwork" that has fueled the maritime industry since the founding days of the U.S. Merchant Marine at the birth of the country.
"As we look to the future of our mariners, we can look to our past for the blueprint for success," Matsuda said.
Retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Wendi Carpenter, SUNY Maritime College president, discussed the merchant marine's role in Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Additionally, she received the Merchant Marine Medal for Outstanding Achievement at the ceremony for assisting FEMA relief workers for two months after the hurricane struck New York.
"Sandy reminded us that the sea can bring both death and destruction, and life-saving and life-giving," Carpenter said. "The spirit of the mariner is one of service, and one of sacrifice. Teamwork, dedication and service know no boundaries, especially when people need help."
Other remarks included U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, California Rep. John Garamendi, Superintendant of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy U.S. Merchant Services Rear Adm. Jim Helis, and Capital Region FEMA Director Steward Beckham.
The heart of the formal military ceremony was a commemorative wreath presentation in solemn remembrance of mariners who died in service to the nation. During the recognition, guests stood and service members saluted. The wreaths were eventually placed in downtown Washington at the mariner bronze relief sculpture at the Navy Memorial.
The ceremony involved 25 cadets from the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education at Piney Point, Md. Apprentice Michael Pinnisi, Piney Point cadet, and MSC's Information Technology First Class Brian Panelo served as a wreath tenders.
The ceremony included an invocation and benediction by MSC Force Chaplain Cmdr. David Oravec, and included solo renditions of "The Navy Hymn" and "God Bless America" sung by Erin Gantt of MSC's Prepositioning Program.
For more news from Military Sealift Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/MSC/ .