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Decorated Massachusetts Korean War combat veteran turns 90, celebrates with friends

By KATHRYN GALLERANI | Wicked Local South/Mariner | Published: July 14, 2020

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KINGSTON, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — The parade of vehicles proceeded from Pembroke Community Middle School to Silver Lake Regional High School, with all the bells and whistles, where a large American flag was flying.

The object of all the attention?

Dennis Reddy Jr., who couldn't wait to enlist in the Army and fight in World War II, even if it meant sneaking his way in.

He was just 14½ years old the first time he enlisted, determined to honor a friend he grew up with in South Boston. He was 15 and at boot camp when World War II ended.

He enlisted again Nov. 14, 1951, to fight in the Korean War.

The decorated combat veteran served 10 months in Korea, earning the Korean Service Medal with two bronze stars, United Nations Medal and an Overseas Bar and Combat Infantryman Badge. He was discharged in 1953 with the rank of sergeant.

At 90 years old, Reddy celebrated his birthday Monday with family and friends pulling off a major birthday surprise at what he was told would be a small family gathering. Described as always humble, "Pa" as his family calls him, demonstrated it by his reaction to the surprise celebration.

"I didn't expect this, and I don't deserve it, but I think it's for everybody you know, any veteran at age 90 I feel, certainly not just for me," he said.

Reddy said he just wished his wife, Dorothy, was still with him to share the day. He has lived in Kingston for 25 years but grew up in South Boston. He was a Boston Police officer for 30 years.

His namesake, son Dennis Reddy III, said his father is a really good guy who was determined to serve his country and then his city. The story of how he left his family for the Army at such a young age is legendary.

"His mother knew nothing about it; she thought he was missing," he said. "One of his buddies got killed, somebody he grew up with in South Boston, and him and his buddies all decided they were going to join the military and go over and fight in Europe."

His family and friends were instrumental in making the birthday surprise happen. Dennis said his father was told they were going to go his daughter's house in Carver to celebrate. He later enjoyed a steak dinner with his family back home.

When his daughter-in-law, Janet Reddy, started planning a low-key way for his family and some friends to honor him on his 90th birthday, she turned to Kingston Police K9 Officer Mike LaNatra. She was telling him about contacting the Boston Police Gaelic Column of Pipes and Drums to be part of the celebration, and he took over.

"Just seeing his history, being a decorated Korean War veteran, a Boston Police officer for 30 years, active in the community, lives in the town of Kingston, it was the least I could do," LaNatra said. "The best way to recognize a veteran or a retired police officer is to have memories made."

Janet and her 5-year-old granddaughter Anya Brooks helped LaNatra through the loss of his retired K9 partner Olyver and invited the Boston Police Pipes and Drums to participate in the celebration after Anya had her picture taken with them earlier this year, her first as an Irish step dancer.

Reddy was presented with special recognition in honor of his 90th birthday and his service in the Army and with the Boston Police Department from the State House by Rep. Kathy LaNatra, D-Kingston.

LaNatra asked Kingston police and firefighters to join him and contacted first responders from surrounding towns, including Plymouth, Pembroke, Duxbury, Carver and Plympton, and many we eager to help out, even on their day off. He also contacted the Boston Police and the National Guard. LaNatra said he was overwhelmed by all the support.

Friends of Reddy's who are also retired Boston Police officers made the trip from Boston to celebrate with him and led the parade.

Her father-in-law is still going strong and is sharp as a tack, Janet said, able to answer any question you ask him about Korea. He's also a religious man who serves as head usher at St. Joseph's Church. She said the family appreciates all the effort everyone put into celebrating with "Pa" and their family.

Follow Kathryn Gallerani on Twitter @kgallreporter.

©2020 Wicked Local South/Mariner, Marshfield, Mass.
Visit Wicked Local South/Mariner, Marshfield, Mass. at marshfield.wickedlocal.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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