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Mar 4, 2009 5:54 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

World War II vets receive medals

Mar 4, 2009 5:54 PM

It has been 64 years since Peter Tureski was in the U.S. Army, but he remembers his experience in World War II like it was yesterday.

“It’s hell when you’re in a foxhole and it’s raining,” the 85-year-old Southampton resident recalled. “War is terrible.”

Last month, U.S. Representative Tim Bishop presented Mr. Tureski with three long overdue medals, and 91-year-old Willard Derp of Hampton Bays with five of his own, for their service and the “hell” they experienced in World War II.

Mr. Derp was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with a bronze arrowhead and four bronze service stars, the World War II Victory Medal, and the New York State Medal for Merit in a small ceremony in Rep. Bishop’s office in Coram on February 5. He also received the Honorable Service Lapel Button.

“I didn’t expect them at all,” said Mr. Derp, who was a medic during the war. “I’m proud of them all.”

Mr. Tureski received the Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze service stars, World War II Victory Medal and the Honorable Service Lapel Button during a similar ceremony on February 19.

During his service, Mr. Tureski served in Northern France, Normandy, Bastone and the Rhineland and later in England, where he served on guard duty after injuring his ankle. Although he is proud of serving his country, Mr. Tureski has grim memories of the war he fought so many years ago.

However, he added that he was able to lean on his fellow soldiers when times got tough. “We had a lot of laughs,” he said.

Mr. Tureski and Mr. Derp said that they did not know why they did not receive their medals immediately after the war was over. Mr. Derp said that he received three small ribbons back then but did not realize he was entitled to more until after his daughter, Barbara Derp, contacted Rep. Bishop’s office.

Mr. Derp said he might have lived the rest of his life without ever receiving his medals if it were not for a trip to Washington, D.C., last year.

In October 2008, Mr. Derp visited the nation’s capital with Honor Flight Long Island, a non-profit organization that transports men and women who served in World War II to Washington to visit the World War II memorial at no cost to the veterans.

After the trip, Virginia Bennett, who works for the Southampton Town Department of Human Services, alerted Ms. Derp of Rep. Bishop’s initiative to help veterans obtain their rightful medals. Ms. Derp soon learned of the awards that her father was entitled to but for some reason never received.

Rep. Bishop said over the years he has helped hundreds of veterans like Mr. Derp and Mr. Tureski get the recognition they deserved. “We do it as a way of appropriately honoring the service and sacrifice that our veterans have made,” he said. “It’s something we have put a lot of emphasis on.”

Will Jenkins, the press secretary for Rep. Bishop’s office, explained that some veterans did not receive their medals because they were home before the war was over, or because they could not be located by the military. “Some of the medals weren’t introduced until some of these guys left the service,” he said. “The New York State medal only came out in the last decade.”

After the war ended, Mr. Derp took advantage of the GI bill, the term applied to education grants offered by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, and went to school to learn television repair. He worked in that field until he retired.

Mr. Tureski, who was only 20 when he was drafted, recalled what it was like the day he learned that Uncle Sam had called for him.

“I didn’t want to go, but when they drafted me, I went along,” Mr. Tureski said. “I said, ‘I have a job to do, and I’ll do it.’”

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congrats!
By courtesy (43), Southampton on Mar 6, 09 6:02 PM
How sad that so many heroes in this "greatest generation" didn't survive long enough to be given the recognition they deserved. My eulogy to my father began with the words "No one loved the United States of America more than 2nd Lieutenant .....". He and so many others served in America's forces in order to protect our way of life; what a total mess we've made of things in such a short time!
I honor these gentlemen; I'm sure they are aware of the fact that they represent the many fellow soldiers ...more
By EQme (112), East Quogue on Mar 7, 09 10:13 AM