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After Nearly 70 Years, A Navy Man Finally Gets His Medals

Sunday, May 25, 2014 at 10:32 PM

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Today is a day of remembrance… remembrance of fallen soldiers, seamen, airmen and Marines who died serving the nation. And it’s also a time when veterans’ contributions are recognized, including some who’ve waited a long time to get their full due. ideastream’s Brian Bull reports:

Photo Gallery

Matthew Heba, Cleveland native and U.S. Navy veteran, with a portait of himself during World War II (pic by Brian Bull) The service medals and decorations Heba earned for his Navy service from 1944-1946 (pic by Brian Bull) Jon Reiss pins medals onto Heba's blazer during the ceremony (pic by Brian Bull) Matthew Heba during the war (left), and after his medal ceremony (right) (pic by Brian Bull) The elder Heba with his son, Michael (pic by Brian Bull)

87-year-old Matt Heba served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, seeing action in the South Pacific. 

The Cleveland native was involved in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the liberation of the Philippine Islands, and the invasion and occupation of Okinawa. 

And he’s been waiting nearly seven decades to hear this…

“…Mr. Heba has earned the following awards…a Combat Action Ribbon….American Campaign Medal… Asiatic Pacific…” reads Jon Reiss, Executive Director of the Cuyahoga County Veteran Services Commission.

The list of service ribbons and other military decorations goes on.  Heba earned seven but, for reasons unknown, they never came until now. 

Heba’s numerous attempts over the years through the Defense Department and Navy were fruitless, until members of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown’s Office stepped in to help.  They worked with the National Personnel Records Center and finally…in a small ceremony with family and friends nearby…Matt Heba got his due.

“Mr. Heba, would you stand up, please?” asks Laura Pechaitis, Senator Brown’s Senior Constituent Advocate.

The honors pinned onto Heba’s blazer include a World War II Victory Medal, a Combat Action Ribbon, and Navy Occupation Service Medal with Asia Clasp. 

On finally receiving the medals, Heba had this say to servicemen, everywhere: 

“I congratulate all you people for defending this country, especially the boys in Afghanistan, and any other areas where there’s lots of troubles.  But one of the things you gotta remember, we have to keep the US strong and we gotta bless America, and we always have to do our best to keep this country outta wars.”

Heba’s son Michael says after he retired, he made it his mission to get the overdue medals for his dad. 

“This was a quaint, short and sweet ceremony. It perfectly honored my father. His friends were here to be with him, and family members, and…mission accomplished!  We got our medals.”

Each year the military branches get thousands of requests from veterans or their next of kin for missing medals. 

Now they can close the books on one.

Tags

Community/Human Interest, Government/Politics

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