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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A wreath and flowers were tossed into the Cape Fear River today in remembrance of the Merchant Marines who served during World War II.

Veterans say it’s important to hold ceremonies like this so that generations to come remember the sacrifices that were made to protect our freedom.

“I think about how fortunate I was to be in a combat zone and to return home in good health opposed to be carried back or being brought back in some other manner, and I thank God for that every day of my life,” Army veteran Frederick Johnson Sr. said.

Of the nearly 243,000 Merchant Marines who served during World War II, more than 9,500 died. It was the highest casualty rate of all the US services.

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