Veteran presented with the Silver Star more than 60 years after he earned it
Thu, 10 Oct 2013 22:36:21 GMT —
When a service member receives an award as prestigious as the Silver Star, they deserve all the pomp and circumstance that comes with it, but for one veteran, it took over 60 years to receive that honor, and it happen while he was in the national capitol on his "Honor Flight."
In 1945, a Private named Louis Rzepka was a scout in the army. While fighting on Luzon in the Philippines, Rzepka's unit was facing enemy fire. There was one man ahead of him.
"On a ridge near the Agno River, the first scout was killed by rifle fire," says Dave Chilson as he reads from a letter of commendation.
In the moments following the other scout being killed, Rzepka killed three Japanese soldiers with rifle fire, and continued to attack the enemy.
Chilson continues reading the letter, "Private Rzepka ran along the top of the ridge and threw grenades into the cave, and fired upon the enemy with his rifle."
For his actions, Rzepka earned the Silver Star. However, he was never formally presented with the award.
"At the end of the war, he had malaria and spent four months in the hospital in the Philippines, then japan. So he never was awarded it," says Louis' son Jerry Rzepka.
In Washington D.C., on a trip with Honor Flight of Northwest Ohio, retired officer Dave Chilson gave Rzepka that honor, while standing in the middle of the World War II Memorial, Rzepka's son looking on.
"I wish the rest of the family could have come," Jerry says as he chokes back tears, "His grandkids and everybody, to see [the presentation].
Jerry went most of his life without knowing what his father had done.
"I didn't even know he received the Silver Star until a few year ago, when my step-mother, who passed away, found it," Jerry says.
But on the day of their visit, Jerry got to keep a secret of his own. The presentation was a surprise, a surprise that almost didn't happen due to a government shutdown.
After the presentation, Louis, along with all the other veterans on the Honor Flight, spent time in their memorial. They paid tribute to friends that were lost in the war, and reflected with other veterans who understand their experience.
Every one of the veterans has a story to tell, but with the "Greatest Generation" getting into their late 80's and 90's, much of the stories and information could be lost when they are gone.