Thanking our Navy for their selfless service

Every day I am inspired by the sailors who are the world’s greatest Navy. I think about their sacrifice, their dedication and their service to the United States. American sailors do their job day in and day out. They do so without asking for anything in return. Their commitment is so constant as to be rarely remarked upon, yet it is remarkable.

Routinely, sailors spend months deployed in places far from their loved ones. They miss birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. They miss first words and first steps. Their service on behalf of their nation is patriotism in action. It is only fitting, then, that as we prepare to celebrate Memorial Day, we take a moment to consider how fortunate we are to live in a nation where dedicated citizens willingly sacrifice to uphold our interests from the sea, as Americans have done since the Revolutionary War.  

Today, almost 14,000 sailors make extraordinary contributions on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and Navy aircraft provide about 30 percent of the support for U.S. and NATO forces on the ground in our current campaigns.  But American interests extend far beyond our current campaigns, and so do our Navy’s unceasing global operations.  On any given day, about 40 percent of our fleet and 65,000 sailors are deployed afloat and ashore, providing the visible demonstration of American leadership in a world undergoing sweeping change.  

The benefits of our flexible, forward Navy have never been better exemplified than in mid-March when our sailors proved ready to respond to simultaneous developments in Libya and Japan.  In the Mediterranean, ships deployed as part of our global Navy were already on hand to project credible combat power and create the conditions where a no-fly zone could be put in place. At the same time, in the waters off northeast Japan, a deployed carrier strike group and amphibious ships rapidly provided the humanitarian assistance, transportation, nuclear and medical expertise to assist our Japanese allies in the aftermath of an extraordinary natural disaster. Navy divers subsequently cleared key harbors to permit the free flow of international aid to the Japanese people in their time of need. American sailors conducted these missions in stride, and soon rejoined their shipmates deployed elsewhere to carry out maritime security operations and continuous engagement with international partners.

While our sailors continue to make extraordinary contributions across the globe, it falls to us to ensure their personal sacrifices are not overlooked. This is why our Navy remains committed to support for those who have been wounded and the families of those who have given their lives, with the very best care our Nation can provide.  This is why we prioritize family readiness and quality of life through housing, child and youth services, and education.  And this is why we must not waiver in our commitment to provide sailors with the tools they need to perform the many missions we will ask of them.

It is my greatest privilege to lead the finest sailors in the history of our Navy – these distinguished Americans, these “fortunate few” answer the call to serve. In tribute today I ask you to join me in remembering, thanking and taking action on behalf of those who sail the oceans, serve on land and patrol the skies in the greatest traditions of the U.S. Navy and in the best interests of America’s future security and prosperity.

Adm. Roughead is chief of Naval Operations.