Jim Alton’s Veterans Affairs June column: Remember the Merchant Marines

Perhaps we did forget: The untold stories of the Merchant Marines

My assistant Rick and I had the pleasure of taking a bunch of veterans to a Beach Bums Baseball game on Sunday, May 29.  One of the vets called me and asked if he could bring along a Merchant Marine from WWII. I told him of course, and met a hero of days past. “Moose” Dunne of Harbor Springs was welcomed aboard the bus and I got to thinking about WWII and all the men of women who died. Upon some further research of Merchant Marines (Mariners), I found that 1 in 26 Mariners serving aboard Merchant ships in WWII died in the line of duty, suffering a greater percentage of war-related deaths than all other US services.

Newspapers carried essentially the same story each week, “Two medium-sized Allied ships sunk in the Atlantic.”

In reality, the average for 1942 alone was 33 ships sunk each week. They did not want this publicized as they would be hard-pressed to get anyone to sail and also to not let the enemy know the damage they were inflecting.

One needs to understand and appreciate the critical role of merchant shipping; the availability or non-availability of merchant shipping determined what the Allies could or could not do militarily. It’s another great example of what America did to successfully win the war, but sad that we have failed to honor our Mariners that in large part helped win it.

So my hat is off to “Moose” Dunne and all of the Mariner veterans. If you get a chance to meet Moose or any other Mariner, give them the same ‘Thank You’ as you would any Veteran!

Oh, and about the bus trip and baseball game: A big thanks to Johnson’s Buses for providing the transportation to Traverse City and a BIG thanks to our local citizens who donated money to pay for the driver, tickets and food at the park so that the veterans had a free day of baseball, food and a time to embellish their time in the service to each other. I was honored to be in their company!

VA employee runs ‘Worst’ veterans charity in the United States

An investigative report has revealed that a charity “created by veterans on behalf veterans” may be making its Rolls Royce-driving founder rich.

A well-funded charity organization called the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation is under fire after it was revealed that only 2% of its cash donations have actually been donated to veterans and their families. That information was recently brought to light by a team of CNN investigative reporters, who dug into tax records made available by a watchdog organization that tracks the financial performance of thousands of charities across the United States, and which named NVVF one of the “worst” veterans charities in existence — despite the fact that it’s run by a combat veteran who is currently employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

According to Fast Company, the watchdog group called Charity Navigator, “ranks nonprofits on the efficacy of their getting and spending, measuring them against seven benchmarks and assigning each one a rating on a scale of zero to four stars.” For example, Concerns of Police Survivors, a charity organization that provides resources to surviving family members of law enforcement officials killed in the line of duty, has an overall score of 91.73 and four out of four stars. That’s good. That’s trustworthy.

Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the spectrum, NVVF, which, according to its web site, was “created by veterans on behalf of veterans” and is “dedicated to aiding, supporting, and benefiting America’s veterans and their families,” maintains a score of 24.60 and zero — zero — out of four stars. That’s bad. Very bad.

By Charity Navigator’s standards, that’s an organization Americans shouldn’t feel comfortable donating their hard-earned money to. I will say again, check out Charity Navigators before you send that donation, or call me — (231) 348-1780 — and I will assist you in finding the ones who really do what they say they will do.

Service dogs for veterans

I have on occasion been asked about service dogs for veterans; the contact information is  http://stiggysdogs.org/ to gather information and apply to get matched with a dog to be trained as a Service Dog. They are a non-profit organization and will assist in training and matching a veteran up with his or her service dog. Of course, you must supply proof of need.

Veterans are reminded that if you use an ambulance for an emergency to go to the hospital, YOU MUST notify the VA within 72 hours or you are responsible for the cost! Contact the VA in Saginaw at (800) 406-5143 Ext. 14012

Memorial Day memories

Memorial Day was celebrated with parades and speeches again this year as well as it should be, but as I pass our cemeteries and see all the flags that are put at the veterans’ locations, it saddens me to know all of the veterans who have passed on and are passing on each day. We have few WWII left, and Korea and Vietnam are closing fast; however, I have been encouraged with this country’s move in the past few years to recognize our veterans and honor those who are still with us as well as those who have “done their job.”

This country is in some turmoil now, but one thing we can always depend on is our military and for this I am very grateful.  Semper Fi


Jim Alton is the Director of the Veterans Affairs Department within Emmet County. Alton served in the United States Marine Corps (1955-62) and is retired from the Michigan State Police. Reach him or his assistant, Rick Wiertalla, at (231) 348-1780 or jalton@emmetcounty.org





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