Nearly 77 years after fighting ended and 34 years after token veterans recognition was granted, U.S. Merchant Mariners of World War II received the Congressional Gold Medal for their service during a bipartisan presentation inside the U.S. Capitol on May 18.
Nine mariners represented the less than 1,500 who survive out of the more than 240,000 who sailed into harm’s way on commercial vessels to supply Allies in Europe and Asia between 1941 and 1945.
“We gave up our yesterdays for your and their tomorrow,” stated Dave Yoho during the ceremony, which he called a “humble tribute to my fallen brothers.” Yoho served in the engine department, signing on as a 16-year-old.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) led the congressional delegation to recognize the mariners.
“We celebrate these patriots for doing their part to preserve liberty,” Pelosi told them.
“They earned their rallying cry: ‘We deliver the goods,’” added McConnell.
U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) and the late U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-AK) pushed Congress for years to honor the World War II mariners with a gold medal.
After saying it was “a great day, a happy day,” Garamendi declared, “Without you, the success of the World War II would not have happened.”
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) said the presentation was “long overdue.” He saluted the mariners, “Everything America asked them to do, they delivered.”
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) paid tribute by quoting President Franklin Roosevelt, “’The merchant marine delivered the goods when and where needed in every theater of operation and across every ocean in the biggest, most difficult job ever undertaken.’”
Also taking part in the presentation were Rear Adm. Michael Wettlaufer, commander of the U.S. Military Sealift Command; U.S. Coast Guard Vice Admiral Scott Buschman and U.S. Maritime Deputy Administrator Lucinda Lesley.