Byron's Babbles

Restoring Hope

Posted in Global Leadership, Indianapolis 500, Indy 500, Leadership, Leadership Development, Memorial Day by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 31, 2021

As kid that grew up in central Indiana and lived here all my life, it has not been until recent years that I’ve been able to watch the Indianapolis 500 live on television. As soon as the race started coverage went off. We could watch it replayed in the evening on the day of the race, but I never understood the thrill of that because I already knew who had won. But, for me, the Indy 500 has always marked the celebration of Memorial Day. The 500 has always done an incredible job of honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the ceremonies prior to the race – these we have always been able to watch. Yesterday’s ceremonies were incredible and extended the honoring to our first responders, health care workers, and others who have worked so hard to keep us safe during the global pandemic. Yesterday, as I watched, I reflected on how we talk a lot about how the earth is shrinking and we are becoming a global society, and this is true, I believe, if you study history, we’ve always been very global minded. Communication has made it possible for easier global collaboration. Much of our sacrifice has been for not only protecting our own freedoms, but the freedoms of others around the world.

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

James A. Garfield (1831–81), May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery

While honoring those who made the supreme sacrifice for our country, we need to remember they made this supreme act in order for our country and the world to be a better place. Decoration Day, as it was called in the beginning, honored those who sacrificed and died in service to our country. Then, the day became widely observed on May 30, 1868 honoring the service of those who did in the American Civil War. General John A. Logan proclaimed the day to commemorate our fallen. James A. Garfield, who was a former Union General, Ohio Congressman, and future (20th) President of the United States addressed 5,000 people at Arlington National Cemetery. In 1873, New York became the first state to designate Memorial Day as a legal holiday. Then, in 1971, when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Memorial Day was set on the last Monday of May.

We memorialize in order to preserve memories, events or people, and this allows us to remember and honor loved ones. This weekend and today on Memorial Day, we memorialize in many forms—ranging from ceremonies to gatherings to physical pieces of remembrance. On this Memorial day we need to be thinking about recovery and new life, especially in support of the service members who survived the atrocities of war but suffered from physical and psychological injuries long after it ended. It is my hope and prayer that we use this Memorial Day to re-center our thoughts to focus on all the freedoms “to” and “of” that the sacrifices we honor today were for. While some peace comes only with time, and the years blur and obliterate some the animosities that led to the horrific violence of our past, we must never forget. Additionally, we need to study our past and learn from what happened, the shortcomings and mistakes of former leaders, and continue to grow as a people who understand that our actions affect every other person in the world. Let us also use this Memorial Day as a call to restore hope in the midst of some of our most dire circumstances.

United States Merchant Marine: The Link To American Victory

Each year I try to do a Memorial Day post honoring those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms I love, and do not take for granted. This past week I had the opportunity to visit and tour the nine decks of the SS American Victory Ship in Tampa, Florida. I already blogged some about my visit in Where Is Your Leadership Engine Order Telegraph Set? While on the ship, which one deck serves as the museum, I stood in the wheel house, walked the deck, saw the radio and gyro rooms, sat in the mess hall, looked in crew cabins, experienced the captain’s quarters, walked the engine room deck, and so much more.

Even as eye opening as all this first hand experience was, I really learned a lot from the attendant who took time to have a long conversation with me about the United States Merchant Marine. I have to admit I was very ignorant about this important part of our military support. The Merchant Marine is also crucial to our economy as well.

Merchant Mariners are not part of the military but do support our armed services, particularly the U.S. Navy, with cargo, fuel, personnel, and other cargo. The Merchant Marine fleet is small and includes privately owned and government owned. The SS American Victory was and still owned by the U.S. Navy. The SS American Victory saw service at the end of World War II, the Korean Conflict, and Vietnam.

The United States Maritime Administration, under the Department of Transportation, handles programs that administer and finance the United States Merchant Marine. This includes supporting the United States Maritime Service, which helps to train officers and crew on merchant ships.

Additionally, there is legislation being considered in the 116th Congress, HR 550 and S133, called the Merchant Mariners Of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act Of 2019. This legislation would award a Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the United States Merchant Mariners of World War II, in recognition of their dedicated and vital service during World War II.

After spending time on this ship, learning of the sacrifices, I, certainly on this Memorial Day morning, believe passing this legislation would be appropriate. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was Supreme Commander Of the Allied Forces during World War II, recognized what an important part the Merchant Marines played in winning the war when he said, “through the prompt delivery of supplies and equipment to our armed forces overseas, and of cargoes representing economic and military aid to friendly nations, the American Merchant Marine has effectively helped to strengthen the forces of freedom throughout the world.” Upon reflection, we would not have successful without this crucial link to equipment, fuel, ammunition, and the many other supplies needed.

According to statistics the Merchant Marine suffered the highest rate of casualties during World War II. Another thing my host shared was a story of American ingenuity. Before the Victory Class ship there was the much slower Liberty Class. The Liberty Class could only travel at approximately 8 knots. This was not fast enough to outrun the 12 knots of the German U Boats. We then redesigned and came up with the Victory Class that could run at 17 knots. This would allow for outrunning the U Boats. Even in war we were having to innovate and make improvements. It still amazes me to think that the SS American Victory was built in 55 days. We need to also take a moment and honor the civilians, many of who were women, for making sure everything was being taken care of back home, including getting our ships built quickly.

I am so grateful I had the opportunity to learn about the United States Merchant Marine and their part in securing our freedom. Today, on Memorial Day, we should all pause and give thanks for the ultimate sacrifice paid by so many for our freedom.