What's your most impossible dream?

I just wrote this article about impossible dreams in the maritime industry: OPED - El Capitan Quixote And An Impossible Dream

After a three-quarter-century battle, the American Merchant Marine Veterans Association won full veteran recognition for WWII mariners… something that only two years ago seemed impossible.

Now they are fighting for full veteran status for merchant mariners of Korea, Vietnam, and both Cold Wars… which seems, frankly impossible.

Who else in the maritime world is fighting the impossible fight?

Some ideas:
Anyone trying to reform MARAD or the USN
Anyone working on Short Sea Distribution
Anyone working to bring diversity to the highest levels of the shipping industy

What else?


A united country.


Getting the public at large to understand what the merchant marine is, and is not, and extrapolation, what merchant mariners are, and are not.

For those who use facebook, how many times on Sheila Sova’s sight and read someone say, “my (whomever) was a merchant marine” or (my (whomever joined/enlisted, in the merchant marines"

A while back I posted Salvatore R. Mercogliano’s article, Suppose There Was a War And The Merchant Marine Didn’t Come, on a page for USN veterans, the response was mostly bewilderment, most believed that the merchant marine and MSC were the same thing, and that the Navy and/or the Air Force, could, and do, deliver all military cargo, one offered the insight that The Jones Act was "passed by (President) Obama, was intended to weaken the military and should be repealed.

None had any real concept of the maritime industry, but then, why should they? Most people in the U.S. share those misconceptions, and this is what’s killing us.

The conflation between the military and the merchant marine leads most people to a sense of complacency, they simply have no idea the role we (merchant mariners) play in both peace and war.

To sum up, The Impossible Dream is a massive education of the people in the U.S. about the maritime industry.


When Sal becomes the Maritime Administrator, and hires me to his staff, then I’ll get the reform started.


Now that does sound impossible!

(And awesome!!)


That was a late recognition well deserved but came with little benefits I am aware of. My Dad was a WW II merchant mariner and believed it when FDR said the MM would get all the benefits accorded to other service members. Seemed fitting as the MM lost on a percentage basis more than any other service, but no veteran benefits were given. He could not get any VA benefits and died before the USMMS was recognized. There was some good that came of his experience. He never agreed to anything regarding money without a signed contract for the rest of his life.
Jon Quixote, keeping tilting at those windmills. Karma happens rarely but it does happen. :slightly_smiling_face:


I continue to dream of a maritime workplace that is safe for women and free of assault and harassment.

30 plus years ago members of the Women’s Maritime Association worked to get the ‘Skipper Reporting Law’ passed to help provide accountability for people that experienced assault while onboard.

Sadly all these years later, it appears the law has never been enforced and young women continue to be raped, assaulted and harassed with no consequences to the perpetrators. No protection from the academies that send them to sea.


I don’t think it’s appropriate to confer veteran status or benefits for post WW2 mariners.

So, we should abolish MSC as well as contract employees aboard ships that service the military exclusively? If that happened the US military would come to a screeching halt.

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That sounds like a great topic of conversation for a new thread… which you’re welcome to start.

What’s my crazy and impossible dream? I have many but one is to prove you wrong one day… and that dream wouldn’t be impossible if most mariners agreed with me, so thank you :wink:


Great article! Very good synopsis of the past week at the AMMV Convention. Sadly modern mariners think they are too young or cool to join our cause but as you can see, there were so many modern mariners at this convention. One spent an hour talking to journalist Rita Cosby who host a live radio show nightly in New York, how to get the public to understand the USMM and what they do. Voice is the most important thing you can do. We present a voice and our mission is to get all merchant marine recognized as veterans. Join the cause because there is strength in numbers and the torch must be passed from the WWII USMM to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq War and all others. ammv.us You can afford $32 a year! Sheila M Sova


Agreed explaining being a Merchant Mariner to coworkers at my current shoreside job before I to the SIU Apprenticeship is almost impossible. Every two weeks after you explain it they forget and think you are going in the Navy or Marines. One person even thought Merchant Marines were Marines on cargo ships with rifles.


9 posts were split to a new topic: Seafarers Held At Gunpoint

Let me play the Devil’s advocate for a moment …

What is the difference between a civilian merchant mariner sailing onboard a ship laden with military cargo and the civilian contractors serving food in a mess hall or servicing aircraft and weapons systems at a forward base?

I strongly believe that the mariners of WW2 should have been given veteran status the moment they signed articles. Since we have commercialized mini-wars and privatized military logistics there is no national commitment like we saw in WW2.

We failed those mariners who sailed the convoys and 37 sessions of Congress bear the shame of this failure. We fail to live up to the jingoistic rhetoric that colors everything military these days. If we really cared about veterans there would be no need for all the $19.95 “save the vets” scams that fill our TV screens.


incredibly, it must be the money. I’m on the iraq burn pit listing. It may pay off before I die but I’m not counting on it.
yes, WW2 sailors got recognized … after 90% of them were gone.
For a large majority of sailors, in the more recent conflicts life was nothing like having gone through military training and having to face your fate with no alternatives.
I’ve done both, they’re not the same.

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I’m no expert on food service but as far as I know:

  • Food contractors are not critical to national security because they can fairly easily be replaced since their skillset is fairly ubiquitous.
  • Food contractors are protected by troops, mariners usually are on their own at sea
  • Food contractors are not sent alone in the woods to collect food, mariners are sent alone into the winter North Atlantic
  • Food contractors aren’t given old rusty equipment and they don’t die if their equipment fails
  • If injured food contractors are medivaced to world-class military hospitals, mariners at sea get whoever has medical pic training
  • Nobody ever promised food workers veteran status, we have been promised many times
  • There is no food service corps with its own commandant (there is a usms with the MARAD administrator is commandant).
  • There is no food service uniform or flag.
  • Food service employees don’t take an oath.
  • Food service workers are not licensed and regulated by a branch of the US Military.
  • Food service workers can’t be locked up and put on bread and water for refusing to work
  • The culinary institute of America is not federally mandated to wear uniforms.
  • The military won’t take a food service person’s license and livelihood away for life if they don’t follow orders
  • The military won’t handcuff the cook for dripping oil or dropping a crate of hazardous material or bumping into another cook on his way to the pantry
  • The food service is not asked to store or transport explosives and nuclear material.
  • The food service never had veteran benefits that were stripped away (we were the first service with free medical facilities - marine hospitals -, free retirement facilities - snug harbor -, free college education - state academies were free until the late 1960s)
  • No food service contractor is in command of a major NATO asset (several uscg licensed master mariners are)
  • The food service is not older than the US Navy… the us merchant marine is.
  • Troops can survive without a food service… they can’t survive without food. We deliver the food.
  • The food service is not on the front line… MRE’s are used until the area is secure. We not only deliver to the front line… we often build the front line.
  • Congress has never said the food service is absolutely critical to national security… as the jones act states.
  • The military has not repeatedly testified that a lack of food service members could prevent us from winning the next major war.
  • The FDA does not have a permanent seat on the joint chiefs of staff, at TRANSCOM, or at the Navy War College
  • Food service workers can not be tried by a military tribunal if they screw up… but right now a master mariner is.
  • Foodservice workers don’t carry small arms.
  • Food service workers aren’t consulted on war planning.

That said… one thing we do share is every time I’ve been invited to a navy facility or military conference, there are always civilian food service people there at coffee hour (but for some reason, they never stay for the lectures).

I could go on…

I don’t know if the foodservice guys deserve veteran status or not - this isn’t about them - it’s about us. Or at least those of you who have sailed through minefields, scud missile attacks, and/or been shot at.

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It’s more than 90%. Roughly 1,800 out of about 250,000 who served in WWII were still alive last year when they finally got full recognition and the congressional gold medal. That’s more than 99%

And they still haven’t got fully paid. The most conservative estimate I’ve read is they are owed at least $25,000

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That was an awful lot of work to obfuscate the point that since the privatization of war and the use of civilian contractors in virtually every logistics role it is hard to make an argument that civmars are any different than any other civilian employee.

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Now you F’n pissed me off but, ok, I’ll stick to the major points:

  • No Civilian Contractor is in command of a major NATO asset… several civmars are.
  • Civilian contractors don’t have a seat on the Joint Chief Of Staff or at the naval war college.
  • Civilian contracts are sent in after the military… we sail alongside carrier groups and help the marines establish the beachhead.
  • Nobody stripped away their veteran benefits because they never had any. We did.

Your comparison is apples to oranges.

John did quite a job neatly lining up his points in such a short time. also…
Unless you’ve been shot at some arguments lack authentication.

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