The following is the text of a blog posted by Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen:
(WASHINGTON) — Last Friday, Americans held Veterans Day ceremonies all around the country. Once again, I had the distinct pleasure of publicly honoring the legacy of our fighting men and women.
Gathered with veterans, their families, and fellow Americans at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall here in Washington, D.C., we paid tribute to all service members, past and present, of our United States armed forces.
Nearly 50 million Americans have served our country since 1775. Whether they served in times of conflict or in peace, America's veterans have all contributed to the cause of freedom and pursuit of democracy around the world. Sadly, well over a million Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our great nation.
While we remember the fallen, it is important to also honor the many who have served and are still with us today. In total, more than 20 million veterans are alive today, continuing to serve our nation in public and private roles.
We know these veterans as fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, grandparents, friends, and neighbors. Men like Albert Long and Clarke Langrall, who were recently recognized for their service to the nation in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II.
Langrall, an alumnus of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y., entered the service in the fall of 1943 at the young age of 18. He described himself as a “lost ball in tall weeds!” and recalled one convoy to Gibraltar, Spain, that included 67 other cargo ships and 17 escorts navigating minefields and aerial attacks — with his ship carrying 10,000 tons of TNT.
Both Langrall and Long traveled thousands of miles by sea during their service, from South America to South Africa and many ports in between. They served in both theaters of conflict and received war zone medals for operations in the Atlantic, Mediterranean/Middle East, and the Pacific.
They epitomize the finest America has to offer, and their time in service represents a watershed moment in their lives, just as my service was in mine.
John F. Kennedy once said: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
It doesn’t have to be just on Veterans Day, either. Take a moment today and every day to remember the sacrifices of the brave men and women who have valiantly fought to make America the greatest nation on Earth.
It takes just five simple words: “Thank you for your service!” For many of you that is not too hard as you have a family member, relative, or close friend who has served or is serving. For those of you who do not, please know that right now there are men and women on duty, in remote, lonely outposts around the world. They are missing the births of their children, wedding anniversaries, their kids’ sporting events, and graduations.
They are spending holidays in the jungles of Southeast Asia, on stinging hot sands of Middle Eastern deserts, and in the cold and rugged mountains of Eastern Europe. We may not know their names, but we know the sacrifices they continue to make for our country, and on Veterans Day we as a nation express our sincere appreciation.
Military service bonds people and creates a sense of commitment that lasts a lifetime. Whether they wore the uniform in war or in peace, veterans exemplify the dedication and ideal of true service to our nation — and we thank them for it.