By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Abraham Essenmacher, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea Public Affairs
BUSAN, Republic of Korea (NNS) -- U.S. Military Sealift Command and Commander Naval Forces Korea (CNFK) personnel gathered to honor the service and sacrifices of the U.S. Merchant Marine during a National Maritime Day ceremony May 29.
The ceremony, marking the 82nd commemoration of the day honoring military and civilian mariners, featured a wreath laying ceremony aboard Red Cloud and a reception at the United Seamen's Center facility.
"As fellow maritime professionals, I believe that Sailors and mariners share a special bond forged through our unique experiences, hardships and rewards of service at sea," said keynote speaker Rear Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander of CNFK. "This kinship of seagoing people is what makes today such a special and reverent occasion."
In her remarks, Franchetti recounted several moments throughout history where the merchant mariners displayed acts of bravery and highlighted the impact mariners had in the Korean War.
"I am reminded of the heroic actions of the brave mariners aboard the freighter SS Meredith Victory during the evacuation of Hungnam, North Korea in December 1950," said Franchetti. "Despite being in the midst of advancing communist forces, shelling, air attacks and navigating through an enemy mine field, the crew saved more than 14,000 Korean refugees."
Walt Christiansen, director of the Busan United Seamen's Service Center, hosted the evening's festivities and echoed Franchetti's sentiment when he spoke about the sacrifices made by mariners.
"Threats of trouble spots weigh heavily on the hearts and minds of our seafarers," said Christiansen. "During World War II the greatest sacrifices made on America's behalf were by merchant seamen; our civilian seamen suffered the heaviest toll."
Cmdr. Eric St. Peter, commanding officer of the Military Sealift Command Office Korea (MSCO-K), closed the reception by reading President Barrack Obama's National Maritime Day proclamation.
"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," said St. Peter. "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."
On May 22, 1819, the steam ship SS Savannah departed her homeport of Savannah, Georgia, to begin the first steam-powered voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. More than 100 years later, on May 20, 1933 the U.S. Congress passed a Joint Resolution declaring May 22 as National Maritime Day.