WWII vet honored with Soldier’s Medal 70 years after brave action

The Soldier’s Medal.

By VANESSA MCCRAY | The Blade, Toledo, Ohio | Published: November 6, 2015

TOLEDO, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — For 70 years, Richard Perry’s heroic response to an ammunition explosion during World War II went unnoticed.

At least officially.

Decades passed before the 89-year-old retired University of Toledo professor learned that his brave actions on April 6, 1945, when he rushed to help after an explosion at a post in Germany, had earned him a Soldier’s Medal.

On Thursday, the medal was pinned to his coat in a ceremony in UT’s Doermann Theatre.

With clouded vision but a clear voice, Mr. Perry stood on stage and called it a privilege to serve as an Army sergeant as he accepted the accolades with humility.

“I haven’t had so much attention since I was about six months old,” he told the audience of about 100, who later gave him a standing ovation.

The recognition might never have happened if not for the reach of technology.

A recent online search for information about his Army unit led Mr. Perry and his wife, Barbara Rondelli Perry, to a retired Army colonel with a trove of records. When Mr. Perry spoke to the colonel, the historian mentioned an order for Mr. Perry’s Soldier’s Medal.

It was the first Mr. Perry knew of the medal. In the flurry of war and its aftermath, he never received it.

An inquiry to UT’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps led the Perrys to Haraz Ghanbari, the university’s director of military and veterans affairs. He arranged for the medal and others to be sent and organized the ceremony.

“Whenever we can come together to say thank you to the men and women that have served this nation, especially our World War II veterans as part of the Greatest Generation, that’s an opportunity that allows us to stop and pause and give thanks for their service,” said Navy Reserve Lt. Ghanbari.

Mr. Perry graduated from Waite High School and enlisted in the Army in 1943. Soon, he was in Europe. The world was at war.

He earned the Soldier’s Medal, awarded for heroism not involving enemy contact, for his actions with the 63rd Infantry Division.

When a trailer load of ammunition exploded and injured two men, Mr. Perry rushed to the scene, “picking his way through the area strewn with thermite grenades and despite the danger of exploding ammunition,” according to the documentation accompanying his medal.

He carried the men to safety and returned several times to remove unexploded ammunition before he was injured by an exploding phosphorus grenade.

He previously had received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, and on Thursday he also received a Bronze Star with a “v” device for valor for his actions in 1945 near Hottviller, France. Mr. Perry and other soldiers worked through the night under heavy fire to repair communication lines.

After he was honorably discharged, Mr. Perry received his bachelor’s degree in education, a master’s degree, and a doctorate from UT, where he taught education-related classes and served in administrative posts for 57 years.

His family, members of his college fraternity, and others attended the ceremony.

Adrienne Sautter, of Holland, said she would expect her grandfather’s wartime actions would earn him honors.

“But to go 70 years without knowing, I think, it’s kind of surprising,” she said.

Mr. Perry urged the protection of U.S. freedoms.

“I hope that I will have an opportunity to continue to serve the community, to serve the students here at the University of Toledo through scholarships, and most of all to continue to encourage everyone to remember that this is the greatest nation in the world,” said the UT professor emeritus.


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