When World War II ended in September of 1945, both Andrew Cella and Vincenzo Geramita had already distinguished themselves in numerous combat missions across Europe, as members of the 94th Infantry Division, now known as the 94th Training Division.
Seventy years later Brig. Gen. Steven Ainsworth, current commander of the 94th TD, awarded Cella and Geramita their well-deserved Bronze Star medals during an intimate ceremony filled with family, friends and service members at Fort Dix, N.J., Sept. 12, 2015.
"Everyone knew that tyranny stared into the world's face," Ainsworth said during his speech. "They sacrificed, not for themselves, but they sacrificed for the person that's next to them, the person that's at home, and the person that hasn't been born yet."
Each Soldier earned a Combat Infantry Badge for the fighting they experienced in Europe, but neither one knew that a 1947 general order made them eligible for the Bronze Star since they had earned their CIBs between 1941 and 1945.
"There are quite a few vets that missed it, they probably were never told," said Maj. Andrew Camp, an operations officer assigned to the 308th Military Intelligence Battalion, Fort Meade, Md., who helped Geramita and Cella get their overdue award. "To be fair, most of them had just gotten out of the service...their main focus at that time was probably getting back to college and raising a family, not watching for general orders to be published."
Geramita took an honorable discharge from the Army in November 1945 immediately after the war ended. He retired with the rank of technician 4th class, the equivalent of today's sergeant E-5.
Cella continued to serve and is also a veteran of the Korean War. He ended his 24-year career as a lieutenant colonel in the late 1960s.
As the ceremony's narrator read congressional letters of commendation along with award citations to heartfelt applause and cheers, Ainsworth, with Command Sgt. Maj. Arlindo Almeida, the 94th TD's senior noncommissioned officer, alongside him presented Cella and Geramita with commander's coin.
Ainsworth noted that this was the first time he'd been afforded the opportunity to present the coin to WWII veterans.
"I promise you if I was around 70 years ago I would've given it to you then," Ainsworth said.
"It's with a great high honor we owe tribute to these gentlemen today," he added. "Thank you very much, we owe them a round of applause. It's been a long time coming."