Embrace a Veteran: Merchant Mariner, 97, honored to have served in World War II, Korean War

Embrace a Veteran: Merchant Mariner, 97, honored to have served in World War II, Korean War

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Douglas Floyd Ponischil is a 97-year-young Merchant Mariner who served in World War II and the Korean War.

He now battles dementia, but his spirit remains inspiring. Thanks to his supportive daughter, many of his memories are captured in a book that showcases his efforts.

"This thing, I'm proud of that," said Ponischil, clinging to his World War II cap.

He also holds plenty of pride.

"I appreciate it more than you know," he said.

As a Merchant Mariner, Ponischil became captain of his ship at just 24 years old. They carried cargo all over the world before his ship was lost to torpedoes.

His daughter, Susan Seagroves helped document his story in a book. She can't forget the details her dad shared with her before dementia clouded his memory.

"Ships all around them were being torpedoed by the Germans and he, they threw their lifeboat off the side of the ship and they all climbed in it, five of them did, and their ship got torpedoed and they survived on this raft for a couple of days and they were finally rescued," Seagroves said. "But they were just, you know, I just can't even imaging the terror of being on the open ocean. I mean they're lucky to be alive."

The book, a summary of his survival, showed examples of the lifeboat that kept most of his crew alive in 1942. There is also a copy of a 1945 telegram letting family know of his promotions.

"I found some old photo albums with some pictures and a lot of letters that he had sent home to his family when he was overseas in the war and just kind of pieced a lot of things together and then some stories that he had written," Seagroves said. "(I) just decided it would be a good thing to do to get them published so that we would have an account of really what had happened."

"My daughter's been very helpful, very. She knows where to go to get things and to do things," Ponischil said.

There is a bond between the two, as well as respect.

"You know, I think the veterans like Dad that are really in their 80s and 90s, they just, they are all so resilient and they just, it was a different time, there was no cell phones," Seagroves said. "I mean I just can't even imagine how they even communicated, you know, and how they lived life back then without any of that and they just all help each other out and they were there for each other, but they are definitely the greatest generation."

It's a generation comprised of appreciation.

"Well I'm just grateful at my age, which is pretty damn old, that I'm still alive and able to walk and do things that most people do ordinarily, Ponischil said.

And at 97 years young, Douglas Floyd Ponischil is hardly giving up.

"I got a few more years to live. I think 100 years is not enough," Ponischil said.

Seagroves said her dad was also the youngest skipper in the Maritime Service to hold credentials, which allowed him to skipper any sized ship on any ocean.

The quote on the back of his book, by Ernest Hemingway, reads in part: "A man can be destroyed but not defeated."

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