Today, the 235th birthday of the U.S. Navy, Heritage thanks all of America’s sailors and their families, retirees, and veterans.

On October 13, 1775, Congress enacted legislation providing for the outfitting of America’s first two warships. While Navy missions have evolved significantly from searching for munitions ships supplying the British, the essential role America’s maritime forces play in securing our nation and allowing prosperity to flourish is unchanged. The U.S. has the finest men and women in uniform on, above, and below the high seas safeguarding our national interests at home and around the globe. From John Paul Jones to Old Ironsides and then to Theodore Roosevelt’s launch of the Great White Fleet; from the “Man the Guns—Join the Navy” campaign during WWII to establishing one of the world’s most elite and respected fighting forces, the Navy SEALs, America’s Navy has always answered the call.

We are reminded of the great sacrifices made by sailors throughout history, but their sacrifice doesn’t end in the confines of a history book; it continues today.

These sacrifices are evident in the freedoms all Americans enjoy daily—freedoms paid for by those in uniform, many of who serve abroad. Today, 46,000 sailors and 262 ships are currently deployed far from America’s shores. From the Arabian Peninsula to Guam and Rio de Janeiro to Egypt, the U.S. Navy protects the sea and provides freedom of movement, which allows business and commerce to continue without interruption. In a speech in April, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Gary Roughead said, “There are many different ways to explain the value of the oceans to the prosperity and security of a nation, but I tend to sum up the importance in three words: commerce, communications and resources.”

The Navy protects vital shipping lanes that facilitate trade and secures valuable resources. The service has also taken a leading role in safeguarding our cyber capabilities by protecting the sea lines of communication: “Cyberspace is on the bottom of the ocean because 95 percent of what moves in cyberspace moves on cables that rest on the bottom of the ocean. That’s the maritime domain. That’s the domain of the United States Navy,” Admiral Roughead stated in another speech in September.

The security the U.S. Navy provides the nation affords much of America’s economic strength. Speaking at the Conference of Defense Associations in Ottawa, Roughead stated, “Navies have been there to provide the presence and the security” he said, adding that it’s critical to “work with friends and partners to make sure the flow of natural resources can flow.”

Maritime security is a necessary component of America’s superpower status. As an article from Time magazine entitled “Birth of a Superpower,” aptly reiterates: “Seapower, if properly applied by such leaders, was the vital tool for any country aspiring to play on the world stage.” Freedom of the seas is a priceless contribution to America’s economy, while the worldwide naval presence of our sailors and ships contributes to peace and stability. The Navy’s global presence serves as a signal of America’s enduring might to her challengers or would-be enemies, while supporting her friends and allies in their neighborhoods.

America’s sailors deserve both our unwavering support and the tools they need to ensure victory now and in the future.