Merchant Mariners in Butler Fight for Recognition

By Rittmeyer, Brian C. | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 15, 2008 | Go to article overview

Merchant Mariners in Butler Fight for Recognition


Rittmeyer, Brian C., Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


More than 60 years after the end of World War II, a small group of Butler County veterans still fights for recognition of their service.

The veterans of the United States Merchant Marine say they've been wrongly excluded from a memorial in Diamond Park in Butler by not having their insignia displayed.

The Merchant Marine emblem deserves to be on the front of the memorial, along with those of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Corps and Coast Guard, said Nathan DeSantis, 87, of Meridian.

"It's a disgrace," said DeSantis, who was discharged from the Merchant Marine as a third mate. "We're veterans of World War II like anybody else was, and they're keeping us from being on our own statue in our own hometown."

The 16-member committee that put up the Butler County World War II Memorial voted unanimously three times against adding the Merchant Marine emblem to the memorial, said John Cyprian, committee chairman and an Army veteran of the Persian Gulf War.

The committee that erected the $400,000 memorial did not include any merchant mariners, but none stepped forward to serve, Cyprian said. The Merchant Marine is included on a plaque on the memorial's back side that lists nearly 30 groups that contributed to the war effort.

"The Merchant Marines were civilians during World War II. Their discharge is from the United States Coast Guard, and the Coast Guard is on the front," said Cyprian, the director of veterans affairs for Butler County. "Veteran status does not make them a branch of the military. The branches of the military are what's on the front."

A recent meeting between the veterans and county commissioners failed to satisfy them, and DeSantis said they are considering legal action. …

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