The following is the text of a news release from U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn:
(WASHINGTON) (Jan. 28) — Today, Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Calif., and Rep. John Duncan Jr., R-Tenn., introduced the “Honoring Our WWII Merchant Mariners Act of 2015.” This legislation would provide surviving merchant marines who served during World War II with a modest benefit for their bravery and sacrifice.
During World War II, more than 200,000 Americans served in the U.S. merchant marines and aided our nation’s military efforts in both Europe and the Pacific. Thousands of our merchant mariners faced enemy attack and died at sea while hundreds more were captured and held as prisoners of war. Despite having the highest casualty rate of any U.S. service during the war, they were not eligible to receive veteran’s benefits.
“The veterans of the merchant marine risked their lives in the service of this nation, but we have never properly thanked them,” said Hahn. “Let us finally right this wrong and repay our debt of gratitude owed to these heroes.”
The legislation would provide a one-time lump sum of $25,000 to each of surviving World War II merchant marines. As many of these veterans are now well into their 90s, and fewer than 5,000 merchant mariners who served in World War II are alive, the congresswoman stressed the importance of passing this bill as quickly as possible.
“So few of these merchant mariners are with us today,” noted Hahn. “Time is running out to thank them properly, and I encourage my colleagues to act quickly in cosponsoring and passing this important legislation.”
Duncan said, “I have helped thousands of veterans and those on active duty and have great respect for them. The word 'hero' is tossed around too lightly today, but I think anyone who puts their life on the line for their country deserves that description. Although the merchant marines were not formally recognized as veterans, they are very patriotic and brave Americans whose sacrifice for our nation cannot be repaid.”