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VIDEO: Palmer drops historical knowledge

Named Hometown Hero in the Veteran category


Norman Palmer weaves a yarn.

At 95, the Peoria resident has nearly a century’s worth of stories to tell, that in turn, tell the story of this country’s history.

Sit down with him and he will tell stories of his time in the Merchant Marines transporting goods along global coasts.

He has stories of even earlier days in the Boy Scouts when he learned that applying pressure to a wound stops it from bleeding and then later applied that lesson to a wounded woman in real time. Palmer stresses that his lessons in the Boy Scouts continued to help him in the Merchant Marines and beyond, as a leader to his own sons within the organization.

While visiting a social studies class to share his stories about the aftermath of WWII, he reminded a group of school children that the Holocaust was very much a real thing, even though one student and his parents were convinced otherwise, as the boy’s teacher remained quiet.

“But how do you know?” the boy asked as the group looked on.

“I know because I was there,” Palmer told the boy.

All Palmer’s stories amount to a lifetime of service whether as a merchant marine, a boy scout leader, or a retired volunteer. As one of the last living people who served in the World War II era, he is an important first-person link to America’s past and a carrier of truth in this modern society.

For his service in the Peoria community and service to his country, Palmer has been named the Peoria Independent Hometown Hero in the Veteran category.

The Hometown Heroes Awards are a celebration of individuals who live or teach in the city, and Peoria businesses for their local achievements and distinguished contributions to the community.

Palmer will be honored at an awards luncheon in February.
In partnership with the city of Peoria, he also will be interviewed by the city and aired on Channel 11.

As a young man, Palmer wanted to see the world and travel on the water, so as WWII was coming to a close, he tried to join the U.S. Navy. But if they took him, he would have been assigned to shore duty because his vision was not good enough.

Instead, with parental permission, he joined the Merchant Marines when he was 17, and served from 1945 to 1948 as a deckman. During that time he served on board Army Transport Corps hospital ships in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. As a deckman, he and other seamen were responsible for physical maintenance of all deck machinery and sailing the ship.

Although not an Armed Service, the Merchant Marines are part of the maritime trade industry that helped the United States win WWII. Being a Merchant Marine during that time was very dangerous. Although their numbers were lower than the Armed Services, because of the harrowing missions they performed, their odds of being killed were much higher during WWII, according to statistics.

Palmer has spent much of his time sharing his experiences in the Boy Scouts and Merchant Marines with his fellow veterans and community members.

He has been a familiar face at the The American Legion Eugene C Yount Post 145, in Peoria.

He recently visited the Legion to share his experiences as a Boy Scout and Merchant Marine with a group of West Valley Boy Scouts.

Gary A Vaughan, commander of American Legion Post 145, said Palmer helped present various awards and rank advancements earned by the Boy Scouts.

Palmer’s lessons as a boy scout helped build his character and develop his capabilities in leadership, Vaughan said.

“As a Merchant Marine, with many years of scouting under his belt, he explained to the boys how scouting had actually helped prepare him for the challenges he faced,” Vaughan said.

Get to know Palmer more here.

Philip Haldiman can be reached at phaldiman@iniusa.org, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.