Another Memorial Day weekend has passed. I’m not much for holidays. I did go up to Galveston for the National Maritime Day Commemoration Ceremony last week. It’s pretty sad to say it, but I probably would have forgotten it myself if I hadn’t gotten a couple of reminders from friends.
Since I am a merchant marine and have been almost my whole life, I feel like I should at least remember this day and the reason for it. Everyone else celebrates Memorial Day for the ‘armed’ services and forgets about all the Merchant Marine has done for the country (and still does, EVERY DAY).
Galveston had their celebration on Thursday, even though the official day is on May 22.
I was going to try and get there early enough to help man a ‘water table’ for the kids coming up to see all the ships, but it took longer than I expected to take care of my property tax protest in Angleton. I would have liked to take a tour myself, the General Rudder from Texas A&M was dockside, the Elissa was right next door, there were a couple of other ships/boats around and also the Ocean Star oil rig.
By the time I got there, the actual ceremony was about to start. I was too late to do any tours. The start was delayed to let the rain pass by (this area has been getting a LOT of rain lately). They had a couple of tents set up behind the Harbor House Hotel on Pier 21. There were quite a few people milling around and a bunch of kids. There were a few of the old veterans there and it was nice to see they made it out to participate in the whole affair, this event is largely in their honor after all.
I was glad to see there was a pretty big turnout (maybe 80-100 people, that’s big for these things). I heard they had over 500 kids come throughout the day to check out the ships! I was really pleased to learn that they are starting up more maritime programs for the kids. Personally, I think maritime is a GREAT industry to get involved with, there are lots of different job functions within the industry to cover all interests. It’s fairly easy to get started and you can work your way up as you go (getting much harder to do that but it IS still possible).
The Commemoration started out with the choir from the Odyssey Academy singing America the Beautiful and then Captain John Peterlin III from the Port of Galveston welcomed everyone. The US Coast Guard formally brought out the flags with the Color Guard while the choir sang the National Anthem.
We had some remarks from Michael Mierzwa (Port Director) and then Brian Hill from MARAD read the Presidential Proclamation…
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
For over two centuries, proud mariners have set sail in defense of our people and in pursuit of opportunity. Through periods of conflict and times of peace, our Nation has relied on the United States Merchant Marine to transport goods to and from our shores and deliver troops and supplies around the world. On National Maritime Day, we honor the women and men who take to the seas to boost our economy and uphold the values we cherish.
Our Nation is forever indebted to the brave privateers who helped secure our independence, fearlessly supplying our Revolutionary forces with muskets and ammunition. Throughout history, their legacy has been carried forward by courageous seafarers who have faithfully served our Nation as part of the United States Merchant Marine — bold individuals who emerged triumphant in the face of attacks from the British fleet in the War of 1812, and who empowered the Allied forces as they navigated perilous waters during World War II. Today, patriots who share their spirit continue to stand ready to protect our seas and the livelihoods they support.
Ninety percent of the world’s commerce moves by sea, and businesses across our country rely on domestic and international trade every day. Helping to protect our vital shipping routes, Merchant Mariners are critical to our effort to combat piracy and uphold the maritime security on which the global supply chain relies. And in times of war or national emergency, they bolster our national security as a “fourth arm of defense.” Whether transporting commercial goods or military equipment, battling tough weather or enemy fire, they strive and sacrifice to secure a brighter future for all Americans. On this day, we reaffirm the importance of their contributions and salute all those who serve this noble cause.
The Congress, by a joint resolution approved May 20, 1933, has designated May 22 of each year as “National Maritime Day,” and has authorized and requested the President to issue annually a proclamation calling for its appropriate observance.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 22, 2015, as National Maritime Day. I call upon the people of the United States to mark this observance and to display the flag of the United States at their homes and in their communities. I also request that all ships sailing under the American flag dress ship on that day.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.
I have to admit, that was probably the first time I agreed with much of what Barak Obama has had to say. 😉
After that, we heard more on the background of National Maritime Day, more about it from RADM USN (ret.) Robert Smith III, and the background of the plaques at Pier 21.
We heard about the Texas Seaport Museum and the Elissa from Jaime White (director), Tammy Lobaugh from Texas A&M spoke about maritime education and professional organizations, Vandy Anderson (Galveston Navigational District) read one of my favorite poems, Sea Fever by John Masefield…
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tideIs a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
We heard more music by the Odyssey singers while they laid the wreath and one of the G&H towboats fired its water cannons in salute.
Captain Peterlin gave his closing remarks and Lisa Lisinicchia from the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum read Carl Sandberg’s poem Young Sea…
THE sea is never still. It pounds on the shore Restless as a young heart, Hunting.
The sea speaks And only the stormy hearts Know what it says: It is the face of a rough mother speaking.
The sea is young. One storm cleans all the hoar And loosens the age of it. I hear it laughing, reckless.
They love the sea, Men who ride on it And know they will die Under the salt of it
Let only the young come, Says the sea.
Let them kiss my face And hear me. I am the last word And I tell Where storms and stars come from.
After the Coast Guard “retired the colors” (put away the flags), it was time for the photo ops. All the old mariners hung out by the wreath for people who wanted to take their pictures. Those guys really have some sea stories! I think they were happy to be there.
There was a ‘happy hour’ afterwards with drinks and snacks at Nonno Tonys next door. I got to meet a few more of the people who had come to participate in the event over a couple of beers and some stuffed fried cheesy rice balls and other tasty nibbles. I met the Captain and mates from Texas A&M’s training ship “General Rudder”, and some of the teachers from the Odyssey Academy. They’re all involved with teaching people about maritime which is great.
I drove back down the beach road, still too cloudy to see the moon, but the ocean was right alongside all the way. All in all it was a pretty cool way to spend the day. I have to agree with Tammy, she said: “boats are cool!”. Yeah, they really are. 🙂
Here are a few more photos. 🙂