Bill honoring U.S. Merchant Marine veterans of World War II approved by Congress

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The Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act has been approved by both the House and Senate and sent to the President to be signed into law. In the House of Representatives, the act was sponsored by Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA). Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) sponsored matching legislation in the Senate.

Representatives Don Young (R-AK) and Susan W. Brooks (R-IN) joined the House legislation as original cosponsors.

Under the legislation, a gold medal will be struck to honor U.S. Merchant Marine veterans of World War II. The medal will be placed in the American Merchant Marine Museum for display. Duplicate medals in bronze would be available for purchase and personal possession.

"Throughout the Second World War, our Armed Forces relied on the Merchant Marine to ferry supplies, cargo and personnel into both theaters of operation, and they paid a heavy price in service to their country," said Congressman Garamendi. "The Merchant Marine suffered the highest per capita casualty rate in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II. An estimated 8,300 mariners lost their lives, and another 12,000 were wounded, to make sure our servicemembers could keep fighting. Yet, these mariners who put their lives on the line were not even given veteran status until 1988.

"I had the opportunity to meet with three World War II merchant mariners in my office. These mariners put their lives on the line for this country, braving German and Japanese submarines in their Liberty Ships as they delivered critical supplies to our servicemembers in the European and Pacific theaters. Unfortunately, their sacrifice is commonly overlooked. Thank you to Senator Murkowski (R-AK) for championing this legislation in the Senate and for her partnership," Rep. Garamendi said.

"Merchant mariners are the unsung heroes of World War II. During one of the greatest conflicts the world has ever seen, they served alongside many American military members as civilian volunteers, risking their lives for the sake of our freedom. Their selfless service, no doubt, supported America in her ability to prevail," said Senator Murkowski in a statement published on March 5. "I thank my Senate colleagues for supporting me in this effort, and I hope that this legislation to honor the brave merchant mariners, who risked their lives to keep America's Allied troops armed, fed, and fortified, will swiftly be signed into law."

"Each day, we meet children and grandchildren of WWII U.S. merchant mariners who tell us of their veteran and how they survived two or three torpedo attacks. Others tell stories of the Murmansk Run. They post photos of very young men (some looking like boys) dressed in merchant marine uniforms or news clippings of their grandfather who was lost at sea. Each and every one of these photos has a story to tell and it is up to us to tell them," said Sheila Sova, a daughter of a WWII U.S. merchant mariner and volunteer with the American Merchant Marine Veterans organization. "My Father, Orville Lee Sova, left me with determination to see this recognition through."

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