Captain Phillips — an American Merchant Mariner, author, and public speaker — is an example of courage, endurance, leadership and heroism. On April 5, 2009, Captain Phillips of the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama was held hostage after his ship was attacked and boarded by pirates in the Indian Ocean off the Horn of Africa. The ship was carrying U.S. food aid headed to Somali refugees in Kenya. On April 12, 2009, U.S. Navy SEALs on the USS Bainbridge opened fire against the Somali pirates in the Maersk Alabama lifeboat and rescued Phillips.

Despite knowing the harm and price he might pay, Phillips offered himself as a hostage to ensure that the other 18 merchant mariners aboard Maersk Alabama reached safety. After surviving the pirate attack, Phillips continued to serve our country as master of the vehicles carrier M/V Green Bay. Phillips retired in October 2014, as announced by the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots.

Merchant mariners, as said by Gen. MacArthur, “have brought us our lifeblood and paid for it with some of their own.”

“Seamen were there at the start of our country, and we will be there in the thick of things whenever we are needed,” says Phillips. Even in the hardest of times, Phillips embodied the creed “Deeds, Not Words.” Phillips “is a model for all Americans,” says President Barack Obama.

Phillips published A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea to recount his experience as a hostage. His book then became a film, Captain Phillips, released in October 2013 with a premiere at the New York Film Festival.