On Friday, March 13, 2020, President Donald J. Trump signed a bill into law that would award the Congressional Gold Medal to the World War II Merchant Mariners. This long-overdue recognition came after several failed bills in Congress going back to 2005.
The American Merchant Marine Veterans (AMMV) organization was represented in 2019 at a booth at the American Legion national convention in Indianapolis. Several Legion members stopped by for giveaways, including the AMMV news magazine. The members at the booth included a 99-year-old World War II veteran named Charles A. Mills who started sailing in 1937.
Many who visited the booth were asked to contact their congressmen and senators asking for their support in the bills that were still in Congress at the time. The bill was introduced by California Congressman John Garamendi and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Both bills passed in Congress during 2019. First H.R. 550 passed, and then in December 2019 the Senate passed S133. and it was sent to the Senate Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Committee. This committee suggested adding the 142 cadet midshipmen from Kings Point Academy who were killed in World War II. The bill returned to the House to be revised. The new bill was labeled H.R. 5671 Merchant Mariners of WWII Congressional Gold Medal Act.
However, this delay in the bill pushed back the signing of the bill for several months. This was very disappointing to several of the WWII USMM veterans, AMMV officers and volunteers who were planning on attending the signing ceremony at the White House. The COVID-19 virus was cause for cancellation of the ceremony, to be signed with little fanfare,
Getting back to the Legion convention, the main attraction at the booth was Mills, who turns 100 in June. Charles had always wanted to join The American Legion. Years ago he was told he was not eligible to join, but times have changed. Charles became a member of the Legion at the convention during a swearing-in ceremony held in front of the AMMV convention booth! .Probably the oldest member to be sworn in, it proves one thing: You’re never too old to join The American Legion!
To find out more about WWII USMM veterans, visit USMM.org. To find out more about the AMMV, visit our website at AMMV.us.