A small group gathered near the wall of waves at Navy Pier on Sunday morning to celebrate National Maritime Day with the Blessing of the Fleet, a tradition where clergy pray on boats for a safe boating season.
US Supervising Chaplain David Shirk led the service in prayer.
“God, we thank you for all who are represented here, representing hundreds of thousands of sailors in both war and peace that they have served with our country,” Shirk said. “We ask that a special blessing be given to those who went down with their ships. We recognize their service because they made the ultimate sacrifice.
About 243,000 sailors served in World War II, according to the National WWII Museum. More than 9,500 died while serving, representing a higher proportion of those killed than for any other branch of the United States military.
Every May 22, the nation honors the United States Merchant Navy, which operates a commercial and military transportation fleet in times of peace and war. It covers 2,000 miles of waterways and over 360 commercial ports in the United States.
National Maritime Day is celebrated at various seaports across the country with activities such as ship adoptions, memorial services and museum visits.
At Navy Pier, a proclamation was read by President Joe Biden that commended sailors for maintaining a smooth passage for the country’s crucial national assets and serving as stewards at the country’s trade gates with the rest of the world.
Captain Tom Blakely, President of Chicago Lodge 3 of the International Ship Masters’ Association, closed the ceremony by speaking about the impact of merchant seamen throughout history.
“Whether transporting cargo, goods or people in peacetime or assisting our military services in wartime, the Merchant Seaman has adapted to the needs of our country,” Blakely said. .
Blakely also spoke about the Chicago-area captains and crews who transport millions of guests on local ships and keep the Lake Michigan and Chicago waterways safe.
“We hope you recognize the efforts of all aboard these vessels during your architectural tours and dinner cruises and appreciate those who work on the tugs and barges as they move building materials and other commodities on this river,” Blakely said. “We are all working to keep this city moving safely.”