After a decades-long logistical effort by her daughter, a woman whose husband served as a merchant mariner and in the U.S. Army during World War II will accept a prestigious medal to honor the man’s heroic service April 30 at the Marin County Civic Center.
Simon Nasalga Sr., who died in 1981, was a decorated Filipino World War II veteran who served on a Filipino passenger ship that was conscripted into the war effort against the Japanese. The vessel was damaged by Japanese planes in February 1942 off the northern coast of Australia and Nasalga suffered a shrapnel injury in the back. He was rescued and recovered from his injury in Australia. Later he helped liberate the Philippines as an official member of the American armed forces.
Marin Veterans Service Officer Sean Stephens helped Nasalga’s daughter, Ofelia Fischman of Mill Valley, honor her father’s sacrifices by filing to receive the Mariner’s Medal, the Merchant Marine’s equivalent of a Purple Heart medal. On April 30 at the Marin County Veterans Memorials in San Rafael, Fischman and her mother, Estelita Nasalga of Santa Rosa, will accept the medal from U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Karl Schultz, Commander of the 11thDistrict.
Between 1943 and 1956, more than 6,000 Mariner’s Medals were awarded to merchant mariners who were wounded or suffered injury as result from actions by enemies of United States. But many Filipino veterans were denied deserved benefits and recognition by the U.S. government. Nasalga died at age 60, long after he emigrated and became a U.S. citizen and long before Fischman could complete paperwork for the Mariner’s Medal.
In rare instances, the medal is presented posthumously for World War II veterans by the Department of Transportation’s Marine Administration in formal ceremonies. Admiral Schultz, a 31-year Coast Guard officer based in Alameda, commands about 2,500 Coast Guard personnel based from the California-Oregon border down to the coast of Peru.
The ceremony is to take place at 9 a.m. next to the World War II memorial on the Avenue of the Flags, just off Civic Center Drive in front of the MarinVeterans Memorial Auditorium.