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73 years after war ends, WWII veteran receives medals

(From center-left) A Purple Heart, Silver Star, American Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal, WWII Occupation Medal with "Germany" clasp, European/African/and Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, and a Good Conduct Medal, lie on a table. (Justin Connaher/U.S. Air Force)

KALAMAZOO, MI — A Kalamazoo veteran was presented overdue service medals today in recognition of his service in the U.S. Marines during WWII.

More than seven decades after the war ended, one piece remained missing from Richard Clark’s book of letters and documents collected during his service in WWII — four medals, one for each war zone he entered while crossing the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

“That’s the only thing I’m missing from that whole book,” Clark said. “I have documents from day one until I got out — every ship I was on, everything. My letters from home are all in there, so this book is so important to me.”

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, presented Clark the missing medals Friday, Sept. 21, during the Kalamazoo Veterans Stand Down event at Salvation Army on South Burdick Street.

Clark showed Upton his book of documents from the war, and shared his story of enlisting at age 18 and of traversing oceans aboard four different ships during his deployment.

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After hearing Clark’s story, Upton noted documents in the collection detailing medals, to which the 91-year-old veteran was entitled but had not yet received.

The congressman praised the nation’s troops and spoke of the sacrifices made by men and women serving in wartime.

“For that service sometimes 50, 60, 70 years later, we’re finally able to give them the medals they deserve,” Upton said.

Along with the four medals, Upton also gave Clark a framed picture of a letter signed by former President Harry Truman thanking WWII veterans for their service.

“I’m so thankful that I live in the county I live in, that we have people like congressman Upton who went out of his way to get this,” Clark said, holding his awards. “I had no idea that I would ever see these. I had them in my papers, but I never actually saw them.”

Clark’s wife, Lorene Clark, and grandson, Mike Szekely Jr. watched as the congressman presented the medals.

Szekely followed his family’s history of service in the armed forces, spending five years in the Marine Corps. He said he is proud to be Clark’s grandson.

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“My grandfather’s awards are rightfully deserved,” Szekely said.

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© 2018 Kalamazoo Gazette, Mich.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.