WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sixty-eight years after his service, a Westfield native was honored for his work in World War II.
On Monday, Deputy Maritime Administrator Paul "Chip" Jaenichen, along with other distinguished guests, participated in an event at the World War II Memorial commemorating these servicemen and their sacrifice. This year's proceedings were especially unique because of a special ceremony where veteran Merchant Mariner James Van Splunder was finally awarded his service medals.
Van Splunder served in World War II as a Merchant Mariner from 1944 through 1945, with a total of 401 days at sea. His service during that time - delivering ammunition and other combat essentials - took him all over the world supporting our national security.
Pictures courtesy of the U.S. Department of Transportation
James Van Splunder (right) and his sons, who are also servicemen, are pictured posing with a U.S. Merchant Marines wreath along with Dep. Admin. Jaenichen.
Called the "fourth arm of defense", by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, more than 215,000 U.S. Merchant Marines served the nation during World War II. The war effort relied on Merchant Mariners to get troops, ammunition, and essential equipment to all corners of the world.
Van Splunder, 91, who now lives in Holland, served in the Coast Guard, Merchant Marine and the Navy Reserves.
He and his wife of 66 years made the trip to the nation's capital with their five children, seven grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren.
Van Splunder received five medals that he earned many years ago. His family secretly worked with officials in Washington to have the medals presented during the Memorial Day Service.