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Pearl Harbor veteran receives medals

May 30, 2002|by SARAH MULLIN

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

After 60 years, 82-year-old World War II veteran Garnett L. Keisecome received his medals for service in the U.S. Navy.

At a special ceremony held Wednesday at Eagle School Intermediate, U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., presented the former Machinist First Mate his nine medals and a U.S. flag that had flown in his honor over the U.S. Capitol on May 13.

"It's some surprise. I'm so glad I'm here and in pretty good health," Keisecome said. "I've had a pretty good life."

The discovery that Keisecome - reportedly the only Berkeley County survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor - had not received his medals came when 10-year-old Lauren Bartley interviewed him for her social studies fair project last fall.

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After finding out about the medals, Lauren told her parents. Her father, Dale, contacted Capito, who placed a request for the medals, which arrived about two weeks ago, Bartley said.

Keisecome had no idea that the Bartleys and his wife, Helen, were working together to get the medals. According to Capito, Keisecome received the following medals: the Pearl Harbor Commemorative Medal, the Navy Honorable Discharge button, the Honorable Service lapel button, the WW II Victory Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one Silver Star and three Bronze Stars, the American Campaign Medal, the American Defense Service Medal with on fleet clasp, the Navy Good Conduct Medal and the Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.

"Sixty years is a long time to wait, but if you had received your medals we wouldn't be here to honor you," Bartley told Keisecome during the ceremony.

"Six months ago, we were strangers and today I am proud to call you my friend," she said.

Bartley won first place in the Eagle School Intermediate social studies fair and second place in the Berkeley County fair for her project "A Day of Infamy for One Martinsburg Native."

Capito encouraged the group of about 400 fourth- and fifth-graders to speak with veterans and listen to their stories.

"It is important for veterans to share their stories with the young ... Ask them (the veterans) questions and tell them you appreciate them," she said. "Thank you for recognizing those who have worked to protect our liberties and our freedom and those who will in the future."

Keisecome said he is donating his medals to the Berkeley County Historical Society.

"I didn't like the war, but I had a good time in the Navy," he said with a smile.

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