Congressmember Bob Turner recently held a ceremony to honor 93-year-old World War II veteran Anton Dietrich Jr. of Richmond Hill, presenting him with the Purple Heart for his actions during the Battle of Sedjenane, Tunisia in 1943.
The event, held at the Sgt. Edward R. Miller VFW Post 7336 in Richmond Hill, began with Disabled Americans Veterans Chapter #118 Commander Louis Nicoletti welcoming everyone and leading those in attendance in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Turner then thanked the distinguished guests and told the story of Dietrich’s life.
“Anton Dietrich has shown the type of bravery and resilience that every American should aspire to,” said Turner. “Neither a German torpedo that left him stranded in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea nor the injuries he sustained from the shrapnel of a German mortar in Sidjenane could break Mr. Dietrich’s will. His actions in battle are a testament to why he and all of the other heroes that fought during World War II are truly part of the Greatest Generation.”
Captain Christina Mouradjian of the Fort Hamilton Army Garrison in Brooklyn then read the history of the Purple Heart before Turner pinned the medal onto the veteran.
“It is an award that no one seeks but an award I am proud to wear,” he said.
Commissioner Terrance Holliday of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs read a letter on behalf of Mayor Michael Bloomberg thanking Dietrich for his service to the country.
“I have been able to present 12 medals to WWII veterans since taking office,” Turner said following the event. “Each one of them serves as a special opportunity to give thanks and recognize the heroes who deserve it most. If it weren’t for the sacrifices of the men and women who fought in this war, we would not have the freedoms or opportunities that we often take for granted today.”
Dietrich was awarded the Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster for injuries sustained while serving with the Army’s 39th regiment, 9th infantry division, 2nd battalion, Company G, on April 28, 1943, in support of the Allied invasion of North Africa in World War II.
The Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster is a U.S. Armed Forces individual military decoration awarded for “being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces.”
More than 700 World War II veterans die each year. Seventy five percent of those veterans living today are 85 or older.