National Maritime Day 2020 was unlike any previous celebration in
recent history in Washington, DC.
There was no gathering in the U.S. Department of Transportation.
There was no presentation at the Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue.
There was no playing of the Mariner’s Hymn nor a formal wreath-laying in the Anacostia River at the U.S. Navy Yard.
Instead, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the whole country was
able to witness the annual tribute thanks to a video fittingly
presented by the U.S. Maritime Administration.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao thanked the “country’s merchant mariners and those who serve in the maritime industry.
“We salute the men and women of the American maritime community who have helped ensure people, supplies and equipment get to where they need to be in times of peace, war and natural disaster,” she noted.
“The U.S.-flag fleet is an integral part of our national security.”
U.S. Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby appeared from the deck of the Ready Reserve Force vessel Cornhusker State docked in Newport News, VA. The U.S. Merchant Maritime Academy graduate compared how today’s seafarers are dealing with the virus to deliver the goods with their predecessors from World War II.
“We are going to get through this no matter what,” Buzby declared.
While the dangers faced by the different generation of mariners are
vastly different, he said both the submarines of World War II were and
today’s virus is invisible and deadly.
“Whether it’s been labor, whether it’s been ship owners and operators,
or whether it’s been government entities, I am proud of the conduct of
all of you.
“We all stood tall, did what we had to do and made it happen, in peace
and war,” Buzby concluded prior to laying a wreath in the water beside
the Cornhusker State.
The head of the U.S. Transportation Command, Gen. Stephen Lyons, added his appreciation, “We count on a strong U.S.-flag maritime industry.”
Lyons added, ” The United States-flag merchant ships, the mariners who crew them, and our commercial sealift industry continue to play a
critical role in our nation’s defense by providing sealift ships,
mariners and access to global seaport networks.
“That is why at the end of the day, it is a U.S. flag on a ship with
U.S. crews at the helm that remain essential to our national defense.”
Providing perspective from the less than 2,000 remaining mariners who served during World War II, Dave Yoho proclaimed that the more than 200,000 who climbed the gangways of that era “came in patriotism to serve this country. We delivered.”
Wrapping up the video was television personality Mike Rowe who sang
“Heave Ho.” Rowe’s uncle was a merchant mariner.
In the one part of the tradition that did occur as normal, the White
House issued President Trump’s proclamation which may be seen here.