‘Maritime Day’: This city should embrace it

Published 9:30 am Thursday, May 24, 2018


Port Arthur’s observance of National Maritime Day this week offered patriotic, spiritual and practical dimensions, courtesy of dedicated people who presented it.

Brian Hill, director of the U.S. Maritime Administration, Western Gulf of Mexico, covered the patriotic portion by reading from President Trump’s proclamation for the day, in which the president said, “Long known as the ‘Fourth Arm of Defense,’ the United States Merchant Marine has served with valor and distinction in every American conflict. The important work of the Merchant Marine was never more evident than in World War II, when merchant mariners sailed dangerous seas and fought enemies as they connected our Armed Forces fighting abroad to vital supplies produced by hardworking Americans at home.”

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Merchant mariners suffered losses greater in proportion than any other military branch in WWII, with the exception of the Marines. Their contributions have been noted in special presentations in recent years at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

Spiritual portions of Tuesday’s public observation, which began at the Seaman’s Memorial Sundial, near the seawall in Port Arthur’s downtown, included Joanna Tran’s moving rendition of “Eternal Father Strong to Save,” a hymn 15 decades old and inspired by Psalm 107, likewise linked to the Gospel of Mark 4:35-39, read Tuesday, which references Jesus calming the waters at Galilee.

Verse 5, in specific, raises up the mariner to God’s protection:

“Lord, stand beside all those who sail, Our merchant ships in storms and gale, In peace and war their watch they keep, On every sea, on thy vast deep.”

The Rev. Sinclair Oubre, Apostleship of the Sea pastor, delivered this message: That seafaring and life on the water may have been marginalized in the public’s mind, relegated to being the industry “at the edge of town.” But Port Arthur’s place in the seafaring world is larger than that.

“We’re the third-largest maritime center in the country, by tonnage,” he said.

“Part of the whole synergy of getting people into Port Arthur — emphasis on port, emphasis on water,” he said, is to recognize the industry.

In his remarks, Oubre noted that life on the water still provides opportunities for seafarers to provide for comfortable lives for their family, if they are willing to seek needed training — some offered locally — and make the necessary sacrifices.

There’s service to home and country involved with that, he said. Seafarers bring the goods that move our economy; they provide for the life of their community.

Maritime Day doesn’t make many calendars; it’s little known away from ports. But it should be known here, and revered, as are the seafarers themselves.

“Be with them Lord, by night and day! For merchant Mariners we pray,” is how Verse 5 concludes.