SCRANTON, Pa. -- In 1943, President Roosevelt issued a nationwide call for volunteers to service in what would be an extremely dangerous mission in Japanese-occupied Burma.
Nearly 3,000 soldiers answered that call.
After achieving their goal of cutting off Japanese communication and supply lines, and capturing the city of Myitkyina, just over 100 soldiers remained.
"Sometimes they went days without supplies, you know, food, they're traveling with their wounded. They made quite the trek. They lost a lot of their men to disease. Of course, they were wounded, they were killed," said Julie Esty of The Dearly Departed Players.
That's why the Dearly Departed Players are kicking off a campaign across Lackawanna County to get as many signatures as possible on a petition asking Congress to pass a Congressional Gold Medal Act for the Merrill's Marauders in recognition of their bravery and service.
Prime Bishop Anthony Mikovsky of St. Stanislaus Parish was the first one to sign the petition on Sunday.
"Even giving of their lives, even those who weren't killed in wartime, offered that up as a possibility. They went and served regardless of the danger, regardless of the sacrifice," said Prime Bishop Mikovsky.
Six members of Merrill's Marauders are from Lackawanna County, including Michael Sevensky, who is buried in St. Stanislaus Cemetery and was a member of St. Stanislaus Polish National Catholic Church in Scranton.
"Truth be told I had no idea he was part of Merrill's Marauders. But I also think that's the way these people were. They quietly sacrificed and gave and then went about continuing to do it," said Prime Bishop Mikovsky.
The soldiers knew the danger they were getting themselves into. They also knew that they were considered "expendable" - there was no plan for getting them out of Burma. That Michael Sevensky made it out alive was nothing short of a miracle.
"All of these men, all of our veterans, are threads in the tapestry of this Valley. We need to take a minute and remember what they did," said Esty.
Men like Walter Grantz, a World War II combat medic from South Scranton who helped rescue prisoners from a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust.
"I'm very fortunate. I'll be 95 very shortly and life has been very kind to me," said Grantz.
The bill to honor the Merrill's Marauders with a Congressional Gold Medal was introduced in the House back in January of 2019.