United States Merchant Marine Academy
Stanley Willner with his family and friends traveled to Kings Point, New York to receive an honorary degree. He was recognized for his service and sacrifice during World War II.
Stanley Willner's Acceptance Speech
Admiral Stewart, distinguished faculty, Capt. Ferguson, graduating class of 2003, family and friends . . . the honor bestowed on me today brings my life full circle.
Sixty one years ago I became a prisoner of war. I was 22 years old. The same age as many of you in the graduating class, today. My hope for you is that you never sail in the winds of war, but only on calm seas under a bright sky.
I would like to acknowledge the following persons. My wife Carol, my daughter Nan, my son Mark and his wife who are here with me today. Joan McAvoy whose landmark legal case awarded veteran's status to the merchant marines of World War II. We are the only remaining survivors of that struggle.
My life long mentor, skipper, and friend, Charles Reilley who is here today. My thanks to Professor Jerry Reminick, here today, who recorded my experiences as a German and Japanese Prisoner of War on the River Kwai in his book "Death's Railway." My long time friend and business partner Mr. C. H. Byler.
Lastly, Dennis Roland who endured those terrible years with me. I share this honor with him and all those who perished on Death's Railway. They are remembered here today. My heartfelt thanks to the Academy for bestowing this honor on me. And God bless America.
© 2003, Stanley Willner. All rights reserved, worldwide.