Dear Family & Friends,
Getting a Merchant Marine officer to put on the “Choker” style Dress White uniform is kind of like giving your cat a bath. Especially to a stinky old tanker captain like myself. Nevertheless, I will gladly make the exception when given an opportunity to represent USNS Mercy and participate in a wreath laying ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial. What an incredible day we had yesterday! Commodore Kearns, Captain Rice, and I (along with a number of Mercy’s crew) had the honor of visiting this beautiful resting place of over 17,000 American servicemen who gave their lives liberating the Philippines during WWII. At the monument is a circle of stone walls engraved with over 37,000 names of those who are missing from the Pacific campaign. Included are the names of the 5 Sullivan brothers who were lost aboard USS Juneau during the battle of Guadalcanal. When you say “seventeen thousand” the number numbs your mind - until you actually see all those individual markers perfectly aligned throughout the cemetery. It is particularly sobering to think that most of these were boys between the ages of 18 to 21. If you ever get the chance to visit Manila, I highly recommend you take the opportunity the visit this place of honor. It’s well worth it!
We arrived in Manila (Pearl of the Orient) Sunday afternoon. I got to get out in town for a little bit. We were mostly busy. In addition to the ceremony, Mercy hosted a reception Monday night for a whole bunch of dignitaries. Our old friend Ambassador Kenny came aboard to wish us well and say goodbye. Good party and good times were had by all!
Our stay in Manila was much to short. We departed this afternoon and are now on our way to Nha Trang, Vietnam. We will rendezvous with USNS Tippecanoe tomorrow for a little gas – about 600,000 gallons (you wouldn’t like the mileage on this ride). We’ll be there Thursday morning! We’re ready to begin phase II of this little sojourn.
More to come…