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Better late than never

A Korean War veteran received his U.S. Army medals nearly 52 years after he was discharged.

A Korean War veteran received his U.S. Army medals nearly 52 years after he was discharged.

August 25, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Eugene Roman held out his hands Tuesday morning as U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito handed him medal after medal, all earned by Roman 52 years ago when he served in the Korean War.

Roman, 72, who lives in Shepherdstown, W.Va., was a forward observer in an artillery unit in Korea. He said he knew he was entitled to the medals when he was discharged from the Army in September 1952, but he never received them.

Capito said Roman's daughter, Sheila Hamilton, who represents the Eastern Panhandle on the West Virginia Board of Education, contacted her in July about getting her father's belated medals.

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The only medal Roman received for his combat service was the Korean War Service Medal issued by the president of South Korea on the 50th anniversary of the war. Roman said he received it at a ceremony at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg.

Capito's efforts made up for Roman's half-century wait Tuesday when she put five medals in his hands during a brief ceremony in the outer office of her regional office at 300 Foxcroft Ave.

Among them were the Good Conduct Medal, Army Occupation Medal-Japan, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal with Silver Service Star and the United Nations Service Medal.

Roman said he thought about the medals "from time to time" over the years.

Roman enlisted for a three-year Army hitch in September 1948, the year President Truman ordered the military desegregated. He was sent to Japan in 1949 in an antiaircraft artillery unit and served in the occupation forces.

North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950. "A week later we were in Pusan," Roman said. His unit was transferred to an artillery outfit and Roman was assigned as a forward observer.

"There were three of us in our unit," he said. Their job was to infiltrate about three miles into the front lines, find the highest hill to set up their outposts and observe enemy positions for their own artillery, he said.

He said he and his two buddies would sometimes have to duck enemy fire. "At night we'd sometimes have tracers coming over our heads," he said.

"We were in combat all the time, but I never shot anybody," Roman said.

Roman was discharged in May 1952, came home to Martinsburg and got his job back as a waiter in the then-Shenandoah Hotel. He eventually ended up working at the VA hospital in Martinsburg for 34 years. He retired in 1985.

He married his wife, Margaret, in 1952. The couple has five children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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