It was a long, hard battle for merchant mariners to, first, gain recognition as members of a branch of the military. That happened in 1986, under President Reagan. Even so, it is difficult, still, to hear the Merchant Marine included in a list of the branches.
Second, the merchant mariners of World War II fought another 34 years for some form of remuneration for their service in that war. Unlike veterans of the other branches, merchant mariners did not receive medical benefits or education benefits. The services of the Veterans Administration were not available to them.
Now, 75 years after the end of their war, its veterans are few and far between. Most passed away without ever receiving a "thank you" from the nation they served. Only a few are alive to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, which President Trump signed into law yesterday. Their families may apply to receive the medal, but only if they possess the mariner's DD-214, discharge papers.
Remembering Jack Lord would like to thank Sheila Sova, the daughter of a World War II merchant mariner, who fought harder than most to see that the men received even this medal. Brava, Sheila! Bravo, US Merchant Mariners of World War II! We only wish it could have come much sooner and with the well earned remuneration that was due to you all.
Read more about the award:
Navarro, Peter. Doing Right by Forgotten American Heroes . . . New York Post. March 13, 2020.