CPB Office of the Ombudsman

Heave Ho! My Lads! Heave Ho!

Joel Kaplan

June 10, 2014

The Memorial and Veteran Days concerts on PBS are always very well received.

However, there also always seems to be a group that feels slighted.

Back in 2012 I wrote about how the Korean War veterans felt slighted at that year's Veterans Day Concert.

Following this year's Memorial Day Concert, Patrick Cotter, the son of a U.S. Maritime Service veteran of World War II, was disappointed that his father's service went unrecognized:

My wife and I were thrilled at the honor bestowed on our U.S. military heroes, living and dead, and their families during the 25th annual National Memorial Day Concert. The stories and pageantry were wonderful and amazing. We were pleased to see the addition of the National Guard to the ceremony this year.

However, we were sincerely disappointed that the sacrifice and service of members of the U.S. Maritime Service (USMS) and U.S. Merchant Marine (USMM) were not recognized along with their armed forces comrades. These services are considered the forgotten services, but they deserve to be recognized for their courage, valor, and commitment to duty, just as their armed forces comrades have been recognized for decades. The men and women of the USMS and USMM gained veteran status in 1998 after many years of neglect by the United States Government.

I request that Mr. (Gary) Sinise, Mr. (Joe) Mantegna, and the PBS producers of future events, such as the National Memorial Day Concert and other such nationally televised shows that honor the lives of our veterans and their families, include recognition of the men and women of the U.S. Maritime Service and the U.S. Merchant Marine. They sacrificed their lives and served their country just as heroically as the men and women of our armed forces.

USMS and USMM veterans are honored at the WWII memorial alongside their armed forces comrades. Why not have the same recognition for the National Memorial Day Concert and other such veterans events sponsored by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting?

Our USMS and USMM veterans, service personnel, and their families should not be forgotten any longer. Please help honor these valiant men and women in future events produced and sponsored by PBS before it is too late and our aging veterans die without the proper recognition of their service to our Nation.

Jerry Colbert, executive producer of the Capitol Concerts program, responded to Mr. Cotter:

I am writing in response to your e-mail dated May 26, 2014, about the 25th anniversary broadcast of the "National Memorial Day Concert" and your feedback regarding the sacrifice and service of members of the U.S. Maritime Service (USMS) and U.S. Merchant Marine (USMM).

The mission of the "National Memorial Day Concert" is to honor the service that all our country's service men and women have made, their families at home, and all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Each year we feature stories of service of sacrifice from America's wars and conflicts that exemplify the experiences of all those who have ever worn the uniform, and their families at home. We regret that you did not feel that the individual contributions of USMS and USMM veterans were honored during this year's event. It is our hope that the "National Memorial Day Concert" provides an outlet for loved ones of the wounded and fallen to remember, grieve and begin to heal, bringing us together as one family of Americans to celebrate our freedom and democratic ideals, and to pay tribute to those who defend them.

We appreciate your feedback and thank you and your family for your service to our country. Thank you again for your interest in the show.

While Mr. Cotter is thankful for Mr. Colbert's response, he has his own recommendation for future concerts:

I am pleased to receive his specific responses to my request to honor the veterans of the U.S. Maritime Service (USMS) and the U.S. Merchant Marine (USMM). I agree that the National Memorial Day Concert is a wonderful tribute to all wounded and fallen veterans and their families. During the tribute, Mr. Sinise recognized the commanding officers for the five armed services and the National Guard. For each of the five armed services, the orchestra played and the choir sang their theme songs, while their service flags were marched across the stage, to honor and recognize each service. I understand it is the intent of Capital Concerts to honor all veterans. May I recommend that Capital Concerts invite the commanding officer of the USMM to attend the performance, the theme song for the USMS and the USMM should be played and sung, and the USMS and USMM service flags should be marched across the stage during the appropriate time of the show. That would be simple, positive, and significant contributions to the overall excellence of the Capital Concerts' show. The official song of the USMS and USMM is "Heave Ho! My Lads! Heave Ho!"

Adding the introduction of the current commanding officer of the USMM and playing the theme song would only add a few minutes of time to the overall theme song celebration portion of the show. However, it would provide significant recognition for the honor and service of these USMS and USMM men and women who gained their veteran status after being neglected as veterans for nearly 50 years. Their wounds of neglect would be healed with such a fine tribute on a nationally televised concert that honors all veterans, including their current commanding officers, their theme songs, and their service flags. The veterans' issues that we have seen lately at the VA are a testament to the need for proper recognition by our nation, the White House, Congress, and the media to honor the service and sacrifice of all our veterans. Please let me know if you and your senior management staff agree that Capital Concerts will be able to update the schedule of events for your next televised concert to include a specific honorary mention of the USMS and USMM veterans' service when the five armed forces are honored.

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