Sailor, 91, Receives Fistful Of Long-Overdue Medals, Ribbons - Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

Sailor, 91, Receives Fistful Of Long-Overdue Medals, Ribbons

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WILLOW GROVE, Pa. -

It's never too late to pay tribute to the men and women who safeguard our nation's freedom, even if the honors come nearly 70 years after they were earned.

When it comes to personal tributes, 91-year-old Walter Czerviski neither expected, nor wanted, the fanfare that awaited him at VFW Post 3612 in Willow Grove Friday morning.

"This is unbelievable," said Czerviski at a ceremony arranged by a pair of state representatives and Sen. Pat Toomey's office, at which Czerviski belatedly received a fistful of medals, ribbons and pins he earned as a young sailor in World War II. 

Czerviski enlisted shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was 21 years old, and says the attack changed his life.

"It's a bad feeling for me," he told FOX 29's Bruce Gordon. "(I) always think about it."

Czerviski served for three years on all manner of ships, on all manner of missions.

Then, he came home and met Jackie, now his wife of 65 years.

Back about two years ago, they began to talk about the honors he earned but never received.

"I told her not to worry about the ribbons and everything -- the medals," he said. "And she insisted on it."

Jackie started making phone calls and writing letters. She wouldn't take "no" for an answer, and kept pushing even when red tape bogged down her mission.

"No," said Jackie with a laugh, "I'm like my daughter and my husband. He's got a square head and I follow."

The medals ceremony was attended by Czerviski's friends and family, including his son Stephen -- an Air National Guardsman who served two tours of duty in Iraq.

VFW posts like 3612 exist to support our veterans. But Jackie Czerviski says we shouldn't have to join an organization or wait for a special holiday to appreciate what our fighting men and women have meant to our way of life.

"We all owe a lot to them," she says. "Not just because he's my husband or my son. But these boys went through hell."

Walter Czerviski will be 92 next month. Even the youngest World War II veterans are now in their mid-80s.

Next time you meet one, tell them "thanks" for their service, Gordon said, while you still can.

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