All those who serve
So I admit more than a great deal of sympathy for the ongoing battles the mariners still fight. My father served as a member of the US Armed Guard, which were gun crews placed on merchant ships in WWII to defend them when they were almost inevitably attacked. Thus he served in the Navy itself and would be a veteran without any doubt. Yet in reality he served side by side with the same merchant marine crewman who continue to fight to be recognized even as veterans. There is this thing about ships in combat. It's not really any safer to be the guy behind the gun or the wiper deep in the engine room. To put it in perspective, the US Merchant Marine in WWII suffered a greater proportion of deaths than any other service.
If the dangers of torpedoes and diver bombers seem like ancient history, there is the more recent story of mariners in the pirate hijacking of the Maersk Alaska last year. But below is the best picture explaining what the Merchant Marine continues to do today. Click on the pic to get the higher resolution version which really comes closer to explaining what the sea is like in what was really a spring squall in the Med. It's hard to imagine what merchant marine crews of WWII convoys routinely went through braving things like winter storms in the North Atlantic; often in mass produced, let alone much smaller, Liberty ships bolted together in days. No weather satellites or GPS to help them navigate the storms either.
MV Cape Texas in the Mediterranean Sea in March 2003. On the deck is equipment of the U.S. Army’s Fourth Infantry Division.