29 Navy Armed Guard, Merchant Marines receive credit after 63 years

FELLSMERE – Nearly 30 World War II veterans who served in the US Navy Armed Guard and Merchant Marines finally received the recognition they deserve 63 years after the war.

“I think it’s the most beautiful thing the government has done for me,” said veteran Thomas Vitale, of Vero Beach, who traveled to Marsh Landing Restaurant from Vero Beach with his wife to accept a certificate of recognition. Members of the two groups traveled from all over to receive their certificates, including one from Cocoa and others from Port St. Lucie, Melbourne, West Melbourne, Barefoot Bay, Sebastian, Fellsmere, Vero Beach and numerous other towns out of the area.

“We wouldn’t have won the war without you guys,” U.S. Congressman Bill Posey said Saturday morning, addressing a packed room of about 70. “We wouldn’t be free today” if not for your service.

Rep. Posey’s office has been working for the last year trying to get certificates made to honor the members of the US Navy Armed Guard and Merchant Marines in his district.

“We were sweating,” member Korky Korker said in introduction to the congressman, adding that they didn’t know until the last minute that Rep. Posey would be at the monthly breakfast.

The congressman, with assistance from his veterans affairs assistant, Chris Hill, called 29 veterans up to receive their recognition.

“They’re often overlooked,” Hill said after the breakfast of the members of the US Navy Armed Guard and those of the Merchant Marines.

He explained that their contributions during World War II were crucial to the war effort, keeping the American military supplied with necessities. The Merchant Marines – a civilian group – was often the target of German U-boats.

“Who knows how the war would have turned out” if not for the members of the Armed Guard and Merchant Marines? Hill asked.

“It is truly humbling and an honor” to present the certificates, Rep. Posey said just as he started to announce the names of the veterans.

“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” he said.

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