Oak Lawn Navy Recruit helps honors WWII Merchant Marine in San Antonio
By Burrell Parmer
Navy Recruiting District San Antonio
Lt. j.g. Kathleen Spyrnal of Oak Lawn, Ill., an Officer Programs operations officer assigned to Navy Recruiting District San Antonio (NRD), had the honor of meeting WWII Merchant Marine Ray Denison during an Alamo Honor Flight Breakfast held at a local Cracker Barrel Country Store.
Attended by other WWII veterans, the breakfast also served as a venue to celebrate Denison’s 100th birthday.
Denison, a long-time city resident and native of Eagle Pass, Texas, joined the U.S. Merchant Marines on Memorial Day 1942 and served till November 1945. While serving, he held a reserve commission as a lieutenant junior grade in the U.S. Navy.
His first ship was the American Empire which was a cadet ship that was used to train Merchant Marines. Afterwards he served aboard the E.R. Kemp which transported fuel from the Texas coast and made deliveries up the Atlantic coast. He next served on a liberty ship, the Henry Dodge, which assisted in the invasion of Luzon in the Philippines. His final ship was another liberty ship, the Richard Gatling, which transported wheat and troops along the North Africa coast.
According to Russell Minor, past vice-president of Alamo Honor Flight, several breakfast groups throughout the area have been meeting monthly since November 2010 and Denison is the second 100th birthday celebrated.
“Having the Navy here is a huge honor,” said Minor, who has known Denison for four years. “We do everything we can to recognize our veterans and having an active duty Sailor present an award to Ray made the event more honorable.”
After being presented with a certificate of appreciation and Navy memorabilia by Spyrnal, Denison stated, “There’s a lot of honor and glory occurring which I don’t think I am entitled to, but I guess hanging around for 100 years deserves some honor.”
The U.S. Merchant Marine played a vital role in the Allied victory of World War II. They moved great quantities of war matériel from their principle source of supply across as many as 6,000 miles of ocean to the battlefronts of the Far East.
They held to high standards and contributed countless accomplishments in every war throughout history, participating in landing operations in cooperation with the U.S. Marine Corps, from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima.
NRD San Antonio’s area of responsibility includes more than 34 Navy Recruiting Stations and Navy Officer Recruiting Stations spread throughout 144,000 square miles of Central and South Texas territory.
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