The statue, depicting one merchant seaman helping another climb a Jacob's ladder during a rescue at sea, was designed by Jasper D'Ambrosi of Wilmington, California. On 1 August 1986, very soon after his original design was accepted and before he started the final model, D'Ambrosi died. His two sons, Marc and Michael D'Ambrosi, created the enlargement which was cast at the family foundry, Arizona Bronze, in 1987 as a tribute to their father.
A bronze plaque on the memorial states, "The United States Merchant Marine has faithfully served our country in times of war and peace hauling cargo to every corner of the world. This Memorial is dedicated to those brave men and women of all races, creeds and colors who answered that call to serve."