The GazetteWorld War II veteran finally receives medals
By MIKE STARK
Pius "Ole" Ehli rarely talked about his experiences in World War II, the battles he was part of in the Pacific Theater, or the men he fought alongside.
For 60 years, he has been content to turn away prying questions about his Army days and let the conversation drift somewhere else.
But on Sunday, friends and family held an emotional backyard ceremony to honor Ehli and presented him with eight long-overdue medals for his service. The event along Poly Drive included an American Legion color guard, live music and about 40 of Ehli's family, friends and employees.
"This was something we wanted to do," said his son Nick Ehli.
Last year, Nick, his brother, Mark, and their father visited the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. While they were there, several visitors came up to the elder Ehli, who was wearing a veteran's hat, and thanked him for his service.
The two brothers began looking into their father's military history and found that he was owed several medals for his service. With their father's health struggling, they contacted Sen. Max Baucus' office and asked if their request for the medals could be expedited.
The medals arrived in overnight mail last Thursday.
Ehli choked with emotion as he was presented with an American flag and the eight mounted medals.
The medals included bronze stars, weapons qualifications badges and the Presidential Unit Citation for "extraordinary heroism."
Nick Ehli, a former Gazette reporter, said researching his father's military history was an eye-opening experience. His father, who served from 1941-1945, drove amphibian carriers, shuttling soldiers back and forth from ships to shore. He fought in Saipan, Okinawa and the Philippines.
"I learned a lot about dad," Nick said. "I never would have guessed that dad was an expert with a submachine gun."
His was glad his father got to see the medals and get the recognition that he deserved. Too many other veterans never did.
"I think there are probably a lot of guys who have medals due," Ehli said.
In a letter, Baucus thanked Ehli and said "the passage of time has not diminished the significance of service."
"Your country will be eternally grateful," the letter said.
Ehli dabbed away tears during the ceremony. Each medal signifies a chapter in his service as a soldier, stories that have been left untold for years. They'll each find a home in a frame.
"It means a lot," he said, pausing to run his fingertips over the medals. "It means a lot."
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- Lid geworden op: 21 sep 2003, 01:50