WWII vet receives Bronze Star 63 years later
November 20, 2008
By Isidro Reyna
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 20, 2008) - Although the honor was bestowed more than six decades later, for one World War II veteran his service has not been forgotten.
Former Pfc. Douglas W. Kearney, 85, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal Nov. 12 in his hometown of Milford, Conn., by retired Lt. Gen. Russel L. HonorAfA in a ceremony at the Milford City Hall for meritorious achievement in combat.
"It all started 10 years ago when watching 'Saving Private Ryan,'" said Dr. Sheila Kearney. "My dad said, 'I was there'. I kind of discounted it since the Army was segregated, but he gave a lot of details, so I fact- checked."
During the search, Kearney found that her father served with Headquarters, 17th Armored Infantry Battalion, 12th Armored Division in campaigns throughout northern France, Rhineland and central Europe, including the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
"You rarely saw black Soldiers at that time," she said. "He was a machine gunner and rifle marksman. He did extra training."
Douglas Kearney was drafted into the military through the selective service process and was placed with a black unit out of Massachusetts, said Dr. Kearney. He was transferred to an integrated company with the 17th Armored and later deployed.
"My dad was elated to receive the Bronze Star Medal, first because of the recognition," said Kearney. "...and being black then, and in a foreign country with white troops; it was tough."
The award comes as the Army marks the 60th anniversary of desegregation of the U.S. military this year.
Kearney also received the Connecticut Veterans Service Medal presented by the State of Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs. He also served as grand marshal of the Milford Veterans Day Parade.
The Bronze Star Medal came about thanks to the help of Lt. Gen. HonorAfA, said Dr. Kearney. She serves as the executive director of corporate responsibility at Gallup. HonorAfA, who retired as the commanding general of First Army based at Fort Gillem, Ga., now works as a senior scientist with the company. She mentioned her father's service to the retired general and HonorAfA made the request on her father's behalf.
Pfc. Douglas Kearney wasn't the only servicemember in his family. His older sister, Capt. Mary F. Kearney, was Bridgeport Connecticut's first Women's Army Corps member and a Howard University graduate. This month the Army marks the 30th anniversary of the integration of the WACs into the regular Army.
Brother William, also a Howard graduate, served in the South Pacific with the Army Medical Corps.
Kearney said she hopes that more veterans who served with her father during World War II will receive recognition for their service as well.