North Versailles Township veteran honored for service
The holidays were extra special for 92-year-old World War II veteran Francis M. McDonald.
The North Versailles Township resident served in the Marine Corps, Third Division, from March 2, 1942, through March 12, 1946, and fought in the Pacific Theater of Operations including Iwo Jima.
On Christmas Eve, members of White Oak American Legion Post 701 presented McDonald with the medals he never received for his service to his country. Surrounding a photo of him in uniform are his medals, which include the American Defense Service Medal, Marine Corps Service Commemorative Medal, Honorable Service Commemorative Medal, American Campaign Medal, Combat Service Commemorative Medal, Asian Pacific Campaign Medal, Asian Pacific Victory Commemorative Medal, World War II Victory Commemorative Medal and the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.
Presenting the veteran with the medals were White Oak American Legion Post 701 members Dominick Kasony, senior vice commander; Tom Terza, service officer; and Steve Slinski, board of directors member; and Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Marcello Graziani, who took part in the presentation before going home to be with his family while on leave.
McDonald received more than medals for his tour of duty. He received a Presidential Testimonial Citation signed by President Harry S. Truman for his service in the Pacific Theater Nov. 9, 1944 through Dec. 25, 1945. During that time he was in the battles of Iwo Jima and Volcano Island.
Granddaughter Germaine Boulet was in charge of researching and acquiring the medals he never received. “He only received one or two because it was during wartime and they didn't give out medals.”
After extensive research and determining his eligibility, she found many medals her grandfather should have received. She contacted Medals of America and grunt.com and ordered the medals. Once they all arrived, they were placed in a display case and presented to the dedicated former Marine.
“He cried,” she said of his reaction to the gift. “He was speechless and he cried. The whole family came in for it and he thought everyone was there for a family photo. When he saw the Marine and the American Legion people he lost it. I will never forget the look on his face. It was wonderful.”
Boulet said the family is “very proud of him and that's why we wanted to do this. We are proud of all the men and women in the military and we thank them.”
She said the American Legion is looking into the possibility that her grandfather may be eligible for the Bronze Star, which is awarded for heroic or meritorious service.
Among those witnessing the ceremony were McDonald's three daughters and son, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and about 45 other family members. His wife of 66 years passed away in September 2009. All three of his sons served in the Marines; two have passed away.
“It was a perfect day except my grandmother was not there,” Boulet said.
“This was something we discussed collectively and wanted to do for him because he talks about his time in the service often and with great pride,” grandson Joseph Adams said. “It's become an expectation to hear a war story recounted when spending any significant amount of time with him. He remembers his time in the Marine Corps fondly and it seems to be one of the highlights of his life.”
Praising his grandfather, Adams said, “He is a really, really good man in just about every sense. He's admired by his family for his integrity, toughness and generosity. He is a role model of high moral character and the kind of person anyone should aspire to emulate. He is truly one of my heroes. The Marine Corps should be proud to claim him.”
Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1916, or firstname.lastname@example.org.