On this Veterans Day morning, I had the honor of laying a wreath and saying a few words at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
We gather on Veterans Day to remember all the veterans who have defended freedom and democracy against the forces of tyranny and oppression around the world, but this occasion was especially to recall the bravery, skill, and camaraderie of the generation who fought in the Second World War.
As Secretary of Transportation, I represented the United States Merchant Marine at the ceremony. Merchant mariners have an important place in our national story, and they wrote a particularly compelling chapter in World War II.
Throughout our history, our Armed Forces have needed the Merchant Marine to support any overseas conflict or emergency. Merchant mariners command and sail the commercial ships that carry the supplies, and, in many conflicts, carried the troops.
In World War II, merchant mariners crossed hostile waters in all the oceans of the world. More than 6,000 of them lost their lives. General Dwight Eisenhower, the commander of the D-Day invasion, said, “When final victory is ours, there is no organization that will share its credit more deservedly than the Merchant Marine.”
Our merchant mariners continue to serve America, supporting our Armed Forces. More than 85% of the supplies and equipment for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are carried aboard ships crewed by civilian mariners.
Let us remember all these brave individuals who risked their lives crossing the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Persian Gulf, and many other seas to transport essential goods or bring soldiers and others out of harm’s way. They served bravely to preserve the freedoms we enjoy, and it is right to remember them with honor and with gratitude.