Bruce Radder fought for his country in WWII. But another 43 years went by after the War ended before he was recognized as a U.S. Veteran. It took the US Supreme Court decision, Schumacher v Aldridge, in 1988, to overcome this injustice. Radder was a Merchant Mariner.
Radder’s just returned from Washington, DC, on the October 3-5, 2014, Honor Flight (see our article in our September 15, 2014 print issue). This trip was designed to give Radder his well-deserved chance to spend time with fellow vets as well as visit WWII memorials in Washington, DC.
“In WWII, there was a concern about Communism on the ports. We needed our own personnel to take care of shipping. We were dockworkers, too, at times. But we were paid differently and not eligible for VA benefits,” said Radder in a recent interview.
The Merchant Marine story is well-documented, including Brian Herbert’s “The Forgotten Heroes: The Heroic Story of the US Merchant Marine” (2004); “At All Costs, How a Crippled Ship and Two American Merchant Mariners Turned the Tide of WWII” (2007, Bob Moses); and “Torpedoed for Life: World War II Combat Veterans of the U.S. Merchant Marine” (2013, Herman G. Starnes).
“The U.S. Supreme Court case gave WWII Merchant Mariner veterans full status (in 1988), but we are still waiting for recognition for (Merchant Marine) veterans from subsequent conflicts,” said Sindy Raymond, National Office Administrator, the American Merchant Mariner Veterans, Inc., a non-profit veterans service organization, headquartered in California, that is recognized by the US Department of Veteran Affairs.
Veterans Day 2014 is coming soon (Tuesday, November 11), which is another reminder to the men and women who served our country on the troubled high seas, and who suffered the highest fatality rate of all services, that they’re not getting a fair shake. Merchant Mariners get snubbed at military honor parades because they’re still not seen as true veterans.
These U.S. sailors saw combat but don’t get the respect and the benefits to which other veterans of other services are entitled. The WWII “forgotten heroes” are elderly now and include African-Americans and women survivors.
Back in San Diego, Bruce Radder seemed philosophical about his status and service history. “I don’t feel forgotten,” said the widower, who now is an entertainer for his mobile park residents. “But it will be up to my son, Scott, to champion my rights.”
California U.S. Congressperson Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) has introduced House Bill HR.1936, Honoring Our WWII Merchant Mariners Act of 2013 to help get deserved compensation for these heroes.
It’s up to our veteran community to contact their own House of Representatives member to help get justice for these men and women who bled for their country. Please request the Congressperson become a Co-sponsor of HR.1936. For further information and a free copy of the informative booklet “The U.S. Merchant Mariner at War,” please contact Mrs. Raymond at the American Merchant Mariner Veterans: telephone (707) 786-4554 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heather E Siegel writes The Siegel Sidebar. Ms. Siegel is a well-known disability rights advocate. If you have a military-related story that needs to be heard, The Siegel Sidebar wants to hear from you. You can reach Heather Siegel via email, email@example.com.