A small group gathered near Navy Pier’s Wave Wall on Sunday morning to celebrate National Maritime Day with the blessing of the fleet, a tradition where clergy pray over boats for a safe boating season.
U.S. Supervisory Chaplain David Shirk led the service in prayer.
“God, we thank you for those all who are represented here, representing hundreds of thousands of mariners both in war and peace they have served with our country,” Shirk said. “We ask a special blessing to be upon those who have gone down with their vessels. We recognize their service as they have given the ultimate sacrifice.”
Approximately 243,000 mariners served in World War II, according to the National World War II Museum. More than 9,500 died while serving, which was a higher proportion of those killed than for any other branch of the U.S. military.
Every May 22, the nation honors the U.S. Merchant Marine, which operates a fleet for both commercial and military transport in peace and war. It covers 2,000 miles of waterways and more than 360 commercial ports in the United States.
National Maritime Day is celebrated at various seaports thought the country with activities such as ship adoptions, commemorative services and museum visits.
At Navy Pier, a proclamation was read from President Joe Biden that praised mariners for maintaining a smooth passage for the country’s crucial domestic goods and serving as stewards at the nation’s trading gateways with the rest of the world .
Captain Tom Blakely, president of the International Ship Masters’ Association’s Chicago Lodge 3, closed the ceremony by talking about the impact of merchant mariners throughout history.
“Whether transporting goods, commodities or people in times of peace or aiding our military services in times of war, the merchant mariner has adapted to the needs of our country,” Blakely said.
Blakely also talked about the Chicago area’s captains and crews who transport millions of guests on local vessels and keep Lake Michigan and Chicago waterways safe.
“We hope you recognize the efforts of all onboard these vessels as you go on the architecture tours and dinner cruises and that you appreciate those working on the tugs and barges as they move the building supplies and other commodities up and down this river,” Blakely said. “We are all working to keep this city moving safely and securely.”