Nearly seven decades ago, Frederick Spellman was fighting his way across France against the Germans as a private first class with the U.S. Army infantry.

Today, the 86-year-old Spellman is a resident of the Eliot Healthcare Center in Natick, Mass., but for a short time on Aug. 24, the memories of World War II no doubt came rushing back to him. That's when Spellman, a former Maine resident, received the State of Maine Silver Star Honorable Service Medal. The medal was presented to him by Lt. Col. Frank Sobchak, garrison commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Natick.

"We really appreciate your service," Sobchak told Spellman. "It is an honor today to be able to thank you for the sacrifices that you made."

In recent years, Maine began awarding the medal to current or former residents who either received the Purple Heart or were taken prisoners of war. Spellman suffered a leg wound in France in July 1945. In December 1944, he and other Soldiers had been trapped behind enemy lines for weeks and listed as missing in action, but eluded capture.

"He was able to return to friendly lines and then continue to fight," Sobchak told those in attendance, who included Spellman's son, Gerald Spellman.

In part, the award citation from Maine Governor Paul LePage read: "We, the citizens of the State of Maine, express our sincere appreciation for his courage and his willingness to serve our state and nation. We are proud of him and grateful to him for his commitment to the defense of freedom."

In addition to the honorable service medal, Spellman had previously received the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Purple Heart.

"There are times in our nation's history where we have been called on to defend freedom and to basically fight evil, to fight the most vile and most dangerous threats to our nation," Sobchak said. "And World War II was probably the most serious time that our nation has ever been threatened with that form of evil.

"It was Pfc. Spellman's generation that stood up, that said 'Pick me. Choose me. I will bear the shield of justice and sword of truth, and I will go and fight evil.'"

Page last updated Thu August 25th, 2011 at 00:00