U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao paid
tribute to the Merchant Mariners at a National Maritime Day annual luncheon hosted by the Propeller Club today
. She was the first Secretary of Labor to address the Propeller Club's National Maritime luncheon.
National Maritime Day honors the contributions made by merchant mariners and the maritime industry.
Secretary Chao also issued a statement recognizing the contributions of the U.S. Merchant Marine:
"I urge all Americans to pause on National Maritime Day 2006 to reflect on the service of the brave men and women who serve in the United States Merchant Marine and to remember those merchant mariners who have made the ultimate sacrifice and given their lives in the service of our country.
"This was a nation founded and built through the contribution of merchant mariners. They have served in every American war since the American Revolution. In every conflict, America's merchant mariners have stood by this great nation. They continue to inspire their fellow Americans.
"The nation is grateful for the United States Merchant Marine's support of our Armed Forces. Today, more than 8,000 brave merchant mariners serve in the Military Sealift Command, crewing auxiliary vessels for the United States Navy. These ships support our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. They deliver our troops and the combat gear, fuel, and other supplies all that they need to complete the liberation and reconstruction of Iraq. All told, merchant mariners have delivered more than 76 million square feet of cargo.
"In war, and in peace, the men and women of the Merchant Marine serve their nation today with the same professionalism as they have in the past.
"The contributions that merchant mariners make to this Nation are immeasurable, and we all recognize the sacrifices they make so we can enjoy our freedom here at home and abroad.
"So on National Maritime Day 2006, a grateful nation gives its thanks to the merchant mariners who sacrificed for us in the past and who honor us today with their committed service."