Located at the South End of John S. Gibson Park the American Merchant Marine Veterans Memorial honors the hundreds of thousands of American Merchant Marines who served--200,000 plus--our country. Some statistics maintain 8,651 Merchant Marines were killed at sea, 11,000 wounded, many more were taken prisoner, died in prison camps, or later died of their wounds. A little appreciate fact is the mortality rate was greatest amongst this class of service men, often made up of men who were ineligible for regular duty by physical limitation and age. These brave men carried cargo and parts to the four corners of the world to support our troops.
As my son, Ian, grew up, we visited the American Merchant Marine ship The Lane Victory, still very operational and located at the far end of Cabrillo Harbor. I would suggest visiting both in the same day...only 5 minutes of beautiful San Pedro lay between the two memorials. Here at John S. Gibson Park you have a wall inscribed with the men and their boats sunk. It is dramatic, sad feeling as you pass by the lists, and reflect on each brave sailor, and then realized for each there were people at home who lost a family member. In the actual Lane Victory vessel, now a fine floating museum, the names are also noted, but there they are on plaques with the boats, names of those lost, the name of the boat which sunk it, and a very through notation about the events. Each year the supporters of the American Merchant Marine, many of them former merchant marines, hang another plaques on the walls of the corridors inside the Lane Victory.
The Granite engraved walls are just part of this too frequently overlooked memorial. The intensely real sculpture of a Merchant Marine extended his arm downward to aide a stranded fellow serviceman is awe inspiring and the struggle to ascend a Jacobs Ladder surreal statement. How could these men save lives in the pitching sea, unforgiving environment in the heat of battle, and selflessly repeat time and time again.The Memorial to the American Merchant Marine asks us to realize the importance of those who often served without direct glory. The Lane Victory has several guns facing all directions. These courageous warrior of the sea fought their way in, and then fought their way back out of near impossible missions all in a routine day. They supplied and replenished food, repaired and replaced gear, so Americans sailors could prevail. Take some time here. Reflect on John S. Gibson park in its completeness. Shrines to Workers, Fisherman, and Merchant Marines stretch across this humble park. Each on a testimonial to commemorating those who gave to our Nation in very different ways.
Run your fingers lightly over the faceless names etched in stone, and consider what events put them there to be touched, then redefine "sacrifice."
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