On July 5th, the day after our nation's birthday, 274 bright young men and women began the process of giving our nation the greatest gift any citizen can offer: service.
Every year on the first day of the United States Merchant Marine Academy's INDOC, new plebes complete their registration, are issued their uniforms, receive their first military haircuts, and learn the rudiments of standing in formation. In so doing, these young men and women take the first steps toward becoming Kings Point midshipmen and eventually joining the U.S. Merchant Marine.
Our merchant mariners play a vital role in our nation's well-being. In peace times, they are a key link in the import and export of U.S. goods and act as transportation leaders. But these dedicated service men and women are also prepared to defend our country whenever duty calls. In fact, those who make it through their plebe summer will be sworn into the U.S. Naval Reserve on Acceptance Day, and those who graduate will either work in the maritime industry for five years and serve eight years in the U.S. Naval Reserve or serve five years on active-duty in any branch of the armed forces.
Yesterday, under sweltering conditions, the midshipmen who will lead the new students through the summer brought a little heat of their own to the first day of INDOC 2012.
There is no question that these students, faculty, and their families are second to none, and they deserve quality training and educational resources. That's why we're working so hard to rebuild and restore the Academy's facilities. The Kings Point campus should reflect the proud legacy of the thousands of midshipmen who came before, and it should be well-equipped for the 274 young men and women who performed their first official salute yesterday.
To all of the new plebes, I thank you for your decision to attend the Academy, and I bid you a warm welcome to maritime service. Good luck and make us proud.