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On a mission

WWII veteran finally receives eight medals thanks to Maris Grove neighbor

Created date

July 23rd, 2013
World War 2 medals

During the thick of battle in World War II, what did American servicemen really fight for? For one another, the brothers in arms fighting beside them. That allegiance still abides among members of the veterans club at Maris Grove, Erickson Living s community in Delaware County, Pa. So when club founder Dick Parsons learned this year that fellow WWII Navy veteran and club member Walter Kolibas had never received his wartime medals, Dick went into action.

On a mission

He quietly contacted U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan R-7, of Upper Darby for help and discovered that Walter was due eight medals for his service as machinist mate second-class on the USS Catoctin, an operations/communications ship. The Catoctin was a floating headquarters, Walter says. Allied leaders and military commanders, including such dignitaries as Winston Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, King George VI of England, and Fleet Adm. W.D. Leahy, met on board to do strategic planning when it was unsafe to meet on land.

Mission accomplished

As Rep. Meehan sped up the medals process, Dick started planning a surprise presentation for the Saturday before Memorial Day. When Saturday came, Walter was rehearsing with Maris Grove s fellowship choir in the community s interfaith chapel; he sings in three campus choral groups. As rehearsal ended, the choir director began playing Anchors Aweigh. Puzzled by the choice of music, Walter nonetheless sang along. Then he saw 15 members of his family walking down the aisle and knew something was up. Here I was, out of uniform, he says. I was wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt. Next, he saw a family friend from West Chester, former Navy Lt. Norm Pine, who was in uniform. Lt. Pine made the official medals presentation. It was the biggest surprise of my life, says Walter. A week later, he attended Maris Grove s annual Memorial Day service wearing a crisp white shirt emblazoned with Navy insignia patches and all eight medals.