At Maine Maritime Academy, we are taught to wear our uniform with pride for those who have gone before us—for the men and women whose lives became merchant work in the service of the nation.

The school was founded in 1941 to provide officers for one of the most vital and dangerous efforts in World War II: supply. With the Nazi U-Boats attacking every American supply convoy they saw, merchant marines had the worst expectancy for living through their journey across the Atlantic Ocean. On the hill overlooking Castine at the MMA Student Center is a cannon commemorating all those who go to sea, and especially those who do not come back ashore.

I’ve been to very few funerals in my time—a friend’s father, my grandmother, a cousin of my mother’s—but none quite like the burial at sea we held this year for Don Higgins. Burial at sea is a tradition as old as seafaring, as a true sailor takes his place where he was most at home in life to rest with the waves and the wind.

Mr. Higgins was a dedicated member of our food service department, and as you may remember me saying before, food is any ship’s No. 1 morale factor.

The Academy reports that he was 81 when he died on June 30, 2012. He was born in East Millinocket, graduated from John Bapst High School in Bangor in 1950 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served in the Korean War as an encryption analyst. After an honorable discharge from the Navy he married Elaine Ryder Nov. 3, 1956 and worked for 29 years in the U.S. Post Office.

According to a member of the MMA staff who knew him well, Mr. Higgins shipped out on the training ship 12 or 13 times in charge of the scullery. His shipmates dubbed him “Captain Don,” which was a name he answered to until his passing.

He requested that he go once more with us to take his rest in the deep.

God Bless, Mr. Higgins, and fair winds and following seas follow you forever.

The opportunity to pay respects to our men and women in uniform who go to sea or to war arises often for those of us wearing a uniform, even if it is only a quasi-military dress we wear. Each time somebody in public sees a Maine Maritime student, they see the uniform first, and we are taught to treat appearance and bearing with utmost respect, keeping in mind our uniformed predecessors.

Back on land, where I have been since I went to hospital, I decided it would be a fine thing to visit a very hallowed place for those uniformed men and women: Arlington National Cemetery. A number of my own ancestors lie in Arlington, and visiting them and the many others there has new significance since coming to MMA.

Arlington is a pilgrimage well worth making, for those of you who have not been. It is a place of solemn memorial and a celebration of history all in one. At the tomb of the unknown soldier, we witnessed the ceremonial wreath laying by a number of middle schools, a heartwarming sign that our children still return to the resting place of America’s heroes to assure them, “You will never be forgotten.”

In today’s world of political angst over questions of whom we should fight and whom we should arm, Arlington is a place where one can stand between two headstones and remember the simple truth of the battlefield: this man stood by this man, and both would give their lives for one another.

In closing this week, I’d ask that all readers take a moment to remember Don Higgins, and to remember all of those merchant sailors and the sailors and soldiers since the founding of our nation who have gone to places afar and not returned.

Requiescat en Pace.

Benjamin Stevens of Islesford is a sophomore at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine and is a participant in The Working Waterfront/Island Institute’s student journalism program.