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History and Heritage

From Sea To Granite Sea

The Blessing of the Fleets

Bright sun beating down, the air so still you could almost hear a pin drop as two Sailors from the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard and a pair of Marines from Marine Barracks Washington, their dress blues crisp, immaculate, eyes forward, in perfect unison march across the plaza toward the "Granite Sea."

For the last 25 years the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. has hosted the annual "Blessing of the Fleets."

The centuries old tradition has been passed down through the generations and celebrated by navies around the globe. The blessing is believed to keep the crews safe and guard ships from the dangers of the seas.

Today, the Navy Memorial honors this tradition by having four service members pour water, collected from the Seven Seas and five Great Lakes, into four surrounding fountains, representing the four compass directions, "charging" them to life and ushering in the spring season.
Three photo collage L-R: Lt. Gen. Berger; color guard with band playing National Anthem Rear Adm. Scott

"The President's Own" U.S. Marine Corps Band provided the music for the ceremony, which included the national anthem and Anchors Aweigh.

Every year the ceremony honors one of the branches of the U.S. military. This year the Navy Memorial museum, adjacent to the memorial opened a new exhibit, "The Year of the Marine Corps," showcasing 240 years of the Corps, from an array of different uniforms over the decades to details about some of the most famous Marines in history.

Representing the Marine Corps was keynote speaker Lt. Gen. David H. Berger, commanding general, I Marine Expeditionary Force. With a clear voice, full of passion and authority, Berger spoke of the gallantry and close relationship the Marine Corps and Navy have had for 240 years.

This year is the year of the Marine Corps, but I would offer to you that every year is the year of the Navy and the Marine Corps." - Lt. Gen. David H. Berger

"In 1775, the Continental Congress created both the Navy and the United States Marine Corps one month apart and we've been operating hand in hand as one team protecting this nation ever since," Berger continued his voice still strong and direct, all eyes from the crowd were on him.

"All of our medical personnel come from the Navy," Berger said. "Navy corpsmen, who we affectionately call docs, save lives of wounded Marines. I would offer that tomorrow's fight, wherever that conflict or crisis is, the one we train for everyday is a naval fight. It is not a Navy fight and it is not a Marine Corps fight, it is a naval fight. I believe in my heart that we have the finest fighting force this world has ever seen. As we bless our fleets today I'd ask that all of us remember those that once served in uniform defending this nation, those serving today, those who gave the ultimate sacrifice protecting our freedoms ensuring that every American citizen can enjoy our freedoms our forefathers envisioned."
Three photo collage L-R: Ceremonial guards carrying water; close up of Ceremonial Guard patch; pouring water in fountain

As the first few notes of the Navy Hymn, "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" began, the strong and kind voice of Rear Adm. Brent W. Scott, chaplain of the Marine Corps, swept through the memorial.

"Today as waters from the Seven Seas merge to become one well spring," said Scott.

So may the fountain of your goodness bless the ships and the crews upon those great waters, guide and protect them from the danger of the storm and the perils that threaten their calling in defense of our nation. We offer this blessing for those who go down to the sea in ships that do business in great waters." - Rear Adm. Brent W. Scott

It was a busy, but proud day for the Ceremonial Guard, who had Sailors performing in parades and at the Navy Memorial.

"It was an honor to be part of the Blessing of the Fleets ceremony," said Ceremonial Guard Seaman Bradley Biggs. "It was something meaningful, showing that the Navy is deployed around the world, around the clock. My favorite part was seeing the pride in the faces of the Navy veterans attending the ceremony."

Following the ceremony the Washington Revel's Maritime Voices provided a free concert in the Burke Theater providing a variety of traditional maritime music.
Three photo collage L-R: Washington Revel's Maritime Voices; cake; Culinary Specialists serving Navy bean soup

The Marine Corps exhibit also features rare historical artifacts and artwork as well as its current mission and goals for the future. The exhibit will be on view until March 2017.

Navy culinary specialists from the White House Mess prepared traditional Navy bean soup for visitors to sample.

This annual event is open to the public and admission is free. To learn more about the Navy Memorial and its current exhibit visit