Veteran's Day offers our nation a way to say, "Thank you," to the brave men and women who have stepped up to serve America under the most dangerous conditions. Just as our veterans have honored us with their service, we pause in our day-to-day routines to remember all that our servicemen and women have done to honor their sacrifice.
So earlier today, Deputy Secretary John Porcari represented the Department of Transportation at the groundbreaking of the American Veterans Disabled For Life Memorial. This is the first permanent public tribute to more than three million living disabled American veterans and the countless others who have died, and I am thankful that Deputy Secretary Porcari could represent us.
And tomorrow, Maritime Administrator David Matsuda will lay a wreath at the World War II Memorial. Merchant mariners played a vital support role in that war, carrying supplies and troops through hostile waters around the globe. More than 6,000 mariners lost their lives.
Currently, more than 85% of the supplies and equipment for the conflict in Afghanistan and the ongoing work in Iraq are carried aboard ships crewed by civilian mariners. And every cadet at the US Merchant Marine Academy joins the US Naval Reserve, ready to pitch in wherever duty calls. We at DOT are very proud of the service merchant mariners provide.
Now, an annual celebration of America's veterans is important; their service in defense of freedom and democracy must never be forgotten. But at DOT we also believe that honoring veterans is a responsibility we should fulfill every day.
That's why we actively encourage veterans to join the ranks of DOT professionals serving America across the country. Blog readers may recall the Federal Highway Administration's Scott Vycital, a battle-wounded soldier who was honored by President Obama at his first State of the Union address last January. I have been so impressed by Scott's story and his work at FHWA's Central Federal Lands division that I am determined to make DOT a federal leader in hiring wounded warriors.
We are also extremely proud of DOT professionals who have joined America's military forces in times of conflict. At last week's Secretary's Awards ceremony, it was an honor for me to present the Operation Enduring Freedom-Operation Iraqi Freedom Service Award to several DOT employees, including veterans Andrew Alexander, James Eric Ferron, William Norris, Daniel Q. Nguyen, and Jerome Steber. Their willingness to put aside their DOT careers and leave their loved ones behind on behalf of US efforts abroad is a remarkable testament to the spirit that makes America great.
Finally, at DOT we have an Office for Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, and one of the key elements in their mission is to support the use of veteran-owned and service disabled veteran-owned businesses on federally funded projects. Whether helping contractors find veteran-owned subcontractors or helping veteran-owned businesses secure the financing they need to compete for transportation projects, OSDBU stands behind America's "vetrepreneurs."
These are just some of the ways the Department of Transportation tries every day to support those who have served America so bravely. I hope that on Veterans Day everyone will take the time to honor their service.