By Nikki Silverstein
Hero: At 97, Jack Beritzhoff of San Rafael has almost seen it all. A veteran of two wars, he was wounded in World War II and later served in the Korean War, yet the United States hasn’t officially recognized his courage and sacrifice in WWII. As a member of the U.S. Merchant Marines, 250,000 strong, he helped bring supplies to American forces and allies. Many of these merchant seamen were torpedoed by U-boats in the Atlantic and attacked by Japanese planes in the Pacific. Some, like Beritzhoff, were wounded, while others died and were held as prisoners of war. President Franklin D. Roosevelt promised the seamen GI benefits, but he died before fulfilling the commitment. In 1988, 43 years late, Merchant Marines were granted veteran status and finally able to receive services from VA hospitals; however, they missed out on the rest of the GI Bill. Today, only 3,000 Merchant Marines that served in WWII are alive and they’re waiting for the passage of the Honoring Our WWII Merchant Mariners Act of 2015, H.R. 563, which includes nominal remuneration. Jack Beritzhoff and his brethren seamen are true heroes and deserve a salute from America. Call or write Marin’s congressional member Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) to let him know that you support the bill. It’s been 71 years. How much longer should our brave Beritzhoff be made to wait?
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