Recently, my wife, Darleen, and I welcomed the members of the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard to our home at the Washington Navy Yard for a barbecue. It was a pleasant event not unlike the Memorial Day observances many Americans will host at their homes. The evening was warm and pleasant as we greeted the Sailors who were lined up to eat. As with most shipmates I have the pleasure to meet, I asked their names and where they were from. Amazingly, almost every state and territory was represented in this group, and some of the Sailors were fresh from boot camp.
Each member of the Ceremonial Guard is offered the opportunity to join the special unit in his or her earliest days of Recruit Training Command. In addition to the 10 weeks of regimented boot camp training, these young Sailors elect to undergo years of strict drill practices and meticulous uniform inspections. They become carriers of the colors in an array of ceremonies and body bearers in Arlington National Cemetery, representing our Navy in the most joyous of celebrations and paying respects at our nation’s most solemn occasions. After two years at the Ceremonial Guard, these Sailors proceed to the Navy fleet, to face danger and different challenges far from within the Beltway of Washington, D.C.
I was struck with awe as each of these sharp young Sailors stepped up to shake my hand. These diverse, young and vibrant Americans were so enthusiastic to meet me; little did they know I was humbled to meet each and every one of them. So many of these Sailors were excited to serve our Navy. I’m so inspired and grateful for these brave Americans. They are truly representative of our organization; they come from different places and backgrounds to serve a common cause, the defense of our great nation.
On that day and every day, when I look upon the faces of our service members I see more than a brave and proud American Sailor. Each service member is representative of a link in a much larger chain. I see a chain of service that spans the history of our nation. In these young people I see the 324,179 individuals who man the 289 ships of our fleet. They are the product of 201,000 Navy Civilians who work on the logistics, planning, design, building and accounting that enable our Sailors to complete their missions. Behind each American Sailor are numerous family members, friends, mentors and communities that support them. When I meet our most junior Sailors, I’m assured of the strength of our nation: the citizens willing to take up the cloth of our nation at great personal cost.
This Memorial Day, we’ll remember the fallen, those brave men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country. I would ask that you not only mourn for their loss but also recognize and remember the families who sacrifice and support our Navy and Marine Corps. Communities such as those surrounding our nation’s capital house and support our service members, and make them feel appreciated when they’re far from home. It takes the care of an entire community to create a Sailor; this same community ensures the lasting memory of our fallen remains alive. I have the benefit of witnessing this strength of courage and resolve as I travel across the globe and meet with the men and women who support our Navy.
This Memorial Day, I am grateful to the families and communities who have given so much to ensure the security, safety and future of our nation. As the Navy will never let go of the significance of our mandate of “forward presence,” let us always be mindful of the notion that with dedication of service to be where it matters, when it matters around the world also comes sacrifice. We honor this sacrifice today.
JONATHAN W. GREENERT
ADMIRAL, U.S. NAVY