2019 “Storm the Hill” Report

Storm the Hill gang at the office of Rep. Steve Scalise

The 2019 “Storm the Hill” was led by WWII Merchant Marine Veteran & AMMV Government Affairs Co-Chair Charles A. Mills, with Eugene Barner and Gerard Driscoll being the other Vets on the team. Sheila M. Sova returned to serve as the Team Coordinator. The group was rounded off with Laura Johnson Riddle, Cindy Driscoll-Komlos, and AMMV D.A.R. Chapter President Dennis Ng; all are children of WWII U.S. Merchant Mariners. This 2019 Storm the Hill was once again sponsored by the Maritime Institute of Technology & Graduate Studies (MITAGS) and the International Organization of Masters, Mates, and Pilots (IOMPP), who graciously provided room & board and travel to/from D.C.

In previous years, the team concentrated on meeting with the Congresspersons and Senators in person. What was learned is that the real decision makes are the staffers, behind the scenes. The politicians were usually short on time, opting for photos rather than meaningful discussion.

This year the STH team was armed with a letter from the American maritime industry in support of the WWII Merchant Mariner Congressional Gold Medal legislation H.R. 550 & S.133. The letter has been signed by over 100 maritime and affiliate groups from all over the country. Copies were provided to all the offices visited by the team.

STH Veterans Barner, Driscoll, & Mills

Note: Each of the Veterans were wearing a faux Gold Medal as a symbol to Congress that WWII Merchant Mariners deserve the recognition that would be bestowed upon them with passage of the legislation.

On Monday, May 20th, the Senate Hart Building was the destination. The goal was to target Senators who cosponsored WWII MM Congressional Gold Medal legislation in the 115th Congress (previously S. 2127), and those Senators with seats on the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Additional Senate offices were also visited as time permitted. In total, the following offices were visited and/or had materials dropped off: Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) (S. 133 Sponsor); Senator Tim Scott (SC); Senator Chris Van Hollen (MD); Senator Elizabeth Warren (CA); Senator Jon Tester (MT); Senator Mike Rounds (SD); Senator Kyrsten Sinema (AZ); Senator Doug Jones (AL); Senator Diane Feinstein (CA); Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH); Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (NV); Senator Robert Menendez (NJ); Senator Tammy Duckworth (IL); Senator Mark Warner (VA); Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT); Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI); Senator Tina Smith (MN); Senator Brian Schatz (HI); Senator Gary Peters (MI); Senator Jack Reed (RI); Senator Dick Durbin (IL); Senator Tom Udall (MN); Senator Jeff Merkley (OR); Senator Steve Daines (MT).

STH group with Rep. Lee Zeldin

Two meetings were scheduled on Tuesday, May 21st. The first was with Congressman Steve Scalise (LA) in his office at the U.S. Capitol. (AMMV member Captain Ron Campana arranged this meeting.) A short meeting with Congressman Scalise and photo opportunity took place while our Veterans explained the discrimination that the USMM had to endure in WWII. Secondly, a meeting was held in the Russell Senate Building at the office of Senator Lindsey Graham (SC), in which the group met with the Senator’s Deputy Military Legislative Assistant, Aaron M. Strickland.

While at this location, the team took advantage of visiting the offices of Senators who are members of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, which is holding S.133. Stops included the offices of Senator Shelley Moore Capito (WV); Senator Richard Burr (NC); Senator Christopher Coons (DE); and Senator Deb Fisher (NE).

WWII MM Veteran Gene Barner w/ Capt. Richard Phillips

That evening, the three WWII Veterans were invited by Retired Rear Admiral Wendi Carpenter, Executive Director of Captain Richard Phillips – Lane Kirkland Maritime Trust, to a special fundraising dinner at The Kimpton George Hotel in D.C. Present were special guests Captain Richard Philips and Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL).

STH Veterans with “Rosie the Riveter”

On National Maritime Day (Wednesday, May 22nd) the STH gang attended the annual ceremony held at the U.S. Department of Transportation building. Following the ceremony, they were guests at a luncheon hosted by the Kings Point Alumni Group of D.C. Dave Gardy of Maritime TV interviewed all members of the team. Click HERE to access these interviews.

STH gang with author William Geroux

An event jointly sponsored by the American Maritime Congress and the U.S. Navy League was held in the Rayburn Building. Author William Geroux was featured, who had just released his second book about the WWII Merchant Marine, titled “The Ghost Ships of Archangel”. In attendance were H.R. 550 sponsors Rep. John Garamendi (CA) and Rep. Don Young (AK). This particular function proved to be very important to our cause as several other Congresspersons attended, and the U.S. Navy League presented each with a USMM plaque intended for display in their offices. For more info on The Ghost Ships of Archangel, visit: www.williamgeroux.com.

While still at Rayburn, the group visited other Congresspersons. This included a meeting with Rep. Lee Zeldin (NY), which was arranged by Rita Cosby; they also met with the staffer of H.R. 154 sponsor Rep. Al Green (TX) to discuss why the compensation bill is not moving forward. The reasoning and purpose of the H.R. 154 were explained in greater detail by members of our group.

The Rayburn Building was visited again on Thursday, May 23rd. The following offices were strategically targeted with the goal of educating about how the USMM of WWII were never segregated and included many women mariners. Office visited included: Rep. Maxine Waters (CA), Chairperson of the House Financial Services Committee which holds H.R. 550; Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus; Rep. Karen Bass (CA), Chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus; Rep. Michael McCaul (TX); Rep. Rob Wittman (VA); Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ); Rep. Jim Jordan (OH); Rep. Mo Brooks (AL); Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY); Rep. Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (GA); Rep. David McKinley (WV); and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX).

Note: Points of discussion during these visits included the stories of Clara Gordon Main (first American female POW) and Carmen Quinonez, torpedoed from the SS Jacinto. Both women were from New York; Quinonez was a Hispanic.

Inside of N/S Savannah

On Friday, May 24th, the group received a private tour of the nuclear ship Savannah. The ship is docked near the SS John W. Brown and is now being maintained by MARAD. However, if a new owner is not found in the distant future, the ship could be scrapped. The Savannah features a 1960’s themed interior.

Click HERE to view all photos from the 2019 Storm the Hill week.

Click HERE to contact your Congressperson & Senators to support the WWII Merchant Mariner Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2019.

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