Night ops

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

President Bush at the Merchant Marine Academy

Transcript of speech here. Highlights:
Life at this Academy is demanding -- and it is meant to be. America is a great maritime power, and our Merchant Marine has a vital role to play. In times of peace, the Merchant Marine helps ensure our economic security by keeping the oceans open to trade. In times of war, the Merchant Marine is the lifeline of our troops overseas, carrying critical supplies, equipment, and personnel. For more than six decades, the mission of this Academy has been to graduate highly skilled mariners to serve America's economic and national security needs. To train you for these responsibilities, this Academy sharpens your mind, it strengthens your body, and builds up your character. The Academy has made you strong and instilled respect for the Kings Point motto -- Acta Non Verba -- "Deeds, Not Words."
***
Deeds, Not Words" defines the Academy's role in the global war on terror. Your cadets are forward deployed in the Middle East, where they're supporting operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Your Global Maritime and Transportation School is providing advanced training in areas from marine engineering to port security for military units like the Navy Seabees and Surface Warfare Officers. And your graduates are serving our nation in every branch of our Armed Services, as sailors projecting American combat power across the Earth; as Marines and soldiers leading platoons from Khandahar to Tikrit; as Coast Guard officers securing our homeland; and as airmen delivering justice to terrorists hiding in safe houses and caves. In the global war on terror, the men and women of this Academy are making a difference on every front -- and the American people are grateful for your service.
***
The advance of freedom is the calling of our time -- and the men and women of the United States Merchant Marine Academy are answering that call. In a few moments, you'll walk through Vickery Gate and leave the Academy that's been your home. You leave with a bachelor's degree, a license as a Merchant Marine officer, and a commission in one of the branches of our Armed Services. And you leave with something else: The great truth that duty and honor and courage are not just words; they are virtues that sustain a free people, people who are determined to live under self-government. They're the virtues that will be your anchor and compass in a life of purpose and service. These are the virtues that America demands of those entrusted with leading her sons and daughters in uniform. And these are the virtues that America has come to expect from the blue and grey.

We see the devotion to duty and honor and country in the life of one of this Academy's finest graduates, Aaron Seesan. Aaron was an Ohio boy who grew up dreaming of being a soldier. He brought that dream with him to this Academy -- and when he walked through these gates three years ago, he carried on his shoulders the gold bar of a second lieutenant in the United States Army. After entering the Army, Lieutenant Seesan trained as a combat engineer. And he was serving at Fort Lewis, Washington, when a group of soldiers who were based at the fort were struck by a suicide bomb in Iraq. Two of the men were killed. And that's when this young lieutenant volunteered to go to Iraq to take the place of a wounded platoon leader.

When Lieutenant Seesan arrived in Iraq, some of his fellow soldiers wondered what was the Army thinking. His platoon sergeant said, "I didn't know what the hell a Merchant Marine graduate was doing here in the 73rd Engineering Company." The sergeant quickly changed his mind when he saw Lieutenant Seesan in action, taking care of his men as they patrolled the most dangerous roads in and around Mosul. In May 2005, he was leading a routine sweep of a city street when a bomb exploded and hit the fuel tank of his Humvee. Those who were with him recall his last words: "Take charge, Sergeant Arnold, and take care of the others."

He died on May 22 -- on National Maritime Day. For his act of bravery, Lieutenant Seesan was awarded the Bronze Star. And the campus memorial that bears his name will remind all who come here of Kings Point commitment to service above self.
As noted in other places, he also talked about Iran.
UPDATE: More coverage at Fred Fry International's Maritime Monday.

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