WWII vets get honors

February 20, 2002

WWII vets get honors


When Ora Delauter received his award Tuesday night for the part he played in the 1944 Allied invasion on the beaches of Normandy, he said it was better late than never.

"I was with the 5th Armored Division of the U.S. Army and I tell you, it was scary that morning," Delauter said, recalling the events of June 6, D-Day.

Delauter, 87, was one of seven Washington County World War II veterans who received certificates Tuesday night from U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., and Jubilee of Liberty medals provided by the governor of the Normandy Region of France.

"These medals were given out by the French government to the veterans who returned to France for the 50th anniversary of the invasion," Bartlett said at the ceremony held at the Maugansville Ruritan Club.


Because not all D-Day veterans were able to make that trip in 1994, numerous ceremonies have been held in the United States to present the awards.

"We have given out more than 50 so far in Western Maryland," Bartlett said.

James Deavers, 77, said he was an Army engineer at the time of the D-Day invasion. "I am very proud to accept this award," he said.

"I was in anti-aircraft artillery and it was very noisy ... the shooting was right over our heads," said Gerold Gigeous. "I still remember that very well."

Gigeous, who came home from the war uninjured, said he was enjoying the honor Tuesday night.

Junior Crist was a latecomer to the ceremony, having only been identified earlier Tuesday as a D-Day veteran. His son took his papers to Bartlett's office, and a certificate and medal were secured for him.

Wilbur Mitchell, 79, clearly remembers losing a lot of friends in the war. "I figure I was one of the lucky ones," Mitchell said, even though he was in a veterans hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., for six or seven months.

A Hancock resident, Mitchell said he belongs to the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans.

"I still think about the war a lot," Mitchell said.

Louis Sestak, 83, said he is going to the French embassy in Washington, D.C., later this week for another ceremony honoring D-Day veterans.

"This was the third battle I was in," Sestak said. "I was all over the place ... in Africa, Sicily and then at Normandy."

William Kendall, 81, of Hagerstown, was an Army Air Corps turret gunner. "I was never wounded but I did make two forced landings," Kendall said.

The seven men were accompanied in some instances by wives, grown children or close friends. They greeted each other and shared stories and a few moments in the spotlight for their contribution to what Bartlett called the enduring freedom of America.

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