WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- An only child and sole provider for his widowed mother, John Gosciewski didn't have to join the World War II effort. But still he volunteered with his friends to serve.
Now, decades later, the 89-year-old Kingston man has finally gotten his war medals.
"It's just an honor not to be forgotten," Gosciewski said Wednesday during a ceremony at the 109th Field Artillery armory.
U.S. Rep. Thomas Marino, R-Lycoming Township, presented Gosciewski with the Army Good Conduct Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal during the event. He also gave Gosciewski the World War II Honorable Service lapel button.
"I apologize to you, sir. What you deserved many years ago, you are getting now," Marino said.
Marino, serving in his second term, said that many veterans failed to get their medals over the years for a combination of factors. Following the war, most soldiers were more focused on getting home than worrying about medals, he said. Over the years, records were destroyed or lost as well, he said.
Marino said he has a staffer, a military veteran, who in part researches veterans files to see who is eligible for medals but hasn't received them.
Gosciewski served in the Italian theater during the war. After the war, Gosciewski entered mortuary school and ran a funeral home in Wilkes-Barre for decades.
During the ceremony, the Wilkes-Barre native shared two anecdotes about his time at war.
He said one time the person sleeping in the bunk next to him was Audie Murphy, among the most famous and decorated American combat soldiers of the war who went on to become a Hollywood actor.
Toward the end of the war, he said he entered a barn and found 40 German soldiers inside that he ordered to surrender. However, he didn't know German and they didn't understand English.
"I said to myself, I'm going to try something. I said, 'Anyone speak Polish here?' One of the German soldiers put his hand up. So, I spoke to him in Polish," Gosciewski said. "We lined them up on the road and I marched them back to the base - where some second lieutenant took the credit and honor for bringing 40 prisoners back. But I was a buck private, and you don't get much credit. But I did my part."