Seventy-five years after a 98-year-old World War II Marine Corps veteran put his life on the line at the Battle of Okinawa, he was awarded a Purple Heart.
Anthony “Tony” Procassini was awarded the high honor on July 12 at an American Legion Post ceremony in Dearborn, Mich., where several family members joined him, according to Military.com.
During the war, Procassini had sought shelter with his comrades while they trying to avoid being fired on by the Japanese but a nearby blast resulted in a blast concussion, that took him several weeks to recuperate from
At the request of his family, Procassini filed for his Purple Heart a few years ago, although he had already turned the paperwork in for it after the war ended.
Procassini gave up hope that he would ever receive the award, but he finally did.
Lt. Col. John C. Gianopoulos of the 24th Marine Regiment 1st Battalion at Selfridge Air National Guard Base awarded Procassini with his Purple Heart.
The crowd cheered, “Oorah!”
During the ceremony, U.S. Marine Sgt. Major Adam Ruiz said, “There are not a lot of Americans who have smelled the taint of blood, whether it is their own or the enemies, and have smelled the Cordite, the sweat and the fear of battle. I’d like to say thank you to those veterans who know that.”
Also in attendance was U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell and Sen. Gary Peters, along with many veterans who served with Procassini.
Procassini’s 22-year-old grandson, Andrew Bullard said, “He’s one of those guys that will teach you respect throughout your entire life. You don’t speak over somebody, you respect your elders, anything like that.”
He added, “He’s one of the wittiest people I’ve ever met, and honestly, he’s one of the kindest guys I’ve met, too.”
When Procassini made it to the podium, he said, “I’m sorry that Dawn, my wife of 74 years, couldn’t be here to share this moment with us. We know the process of 75 years was a long time, but it was worth the effort because it gave me the opportunity to share the results with my grandchildren,” the Marine Corps Times reported.
Procassini’s wife passed away in 2018. The couple had 10 children together, 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
After his service, Procassini and his wife moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., and Procassini became a businessman, working for 28 years with Bendix Corporation and not retiring until the age of 93.
After joking that his acceptance speech was 15 pages long, Procassini said, “What was to be a small affair has turned into a large event.”
He thanked the Marine Corps and his country and closed his speech with, “What I say is Semper Fi and God Bless America.”