By Mr. Ronald W Wolf (Army Medicine)May 29, 2019
The list of the number of the Greatest Generation still alive is becoming shorter. As we approach the 75th Anniversary of D-Day during World War II, we must remember our World War II men and women and bestow the proper respect and recognition for their courage and sacrifice.
Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg of the Army Medical Command traveled to Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, the hometown of Staff Sgt. (ret.) Felix J. Lisovich, a 96-year-old World War II combat medic to present Lisovich with a Regimental Honor Certificate, the Order of Military Medical Merit, and a letter of recognition signed by Lt. Gen. Nadja Y. West, Army Surgeon General and Commanding General, Army Medical Command.
"He shielded his own patients with his body," said Gragg, "He showed himself to be a true hero."
The actions of Lisovich during the fighting in the Philippines define what courage is, he added.
Lisovich began his service in the Army during July 1943; he was discharged in January 1946. During his tour of duty, he served as a surgical technician in the Pacific Theater with Medical Detachment 2nd Battalion, 172th Infantry Regiment, 43rd Infantry Division. He earned the Combat Medic Badge, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and other campaign medals and citations.
Lisovich proved his commitment to his fellow soldiers during the Battle of Luzon, the northern-most island in the Philippines. Control of the Philippines was necessary to the U.S. to serve as a staging area for the final assault on the Japanese home islands. The Philippines were also critical to the Japanese military because its control allowed the flow of war materials to Japan. The Japanese were dug in on Luzon and intent on keeping it.
As part of an amphibious operation to take Luzon, Lisovich survived kamikaze attacks from Japanese Zero fighter planes; participated in the amphibious landing during the invasion of Luzon; was part of combat patrols in the jungle; and aided in casualty evacuations while under direct and indirect enemy fire.
During combat operations to capture a hill overlooking a highway being used as an enemy retreat route, Lisovich was part of a medical team consisting of himself, a doctor, an additional surgical technician, and two medical technicians. The team, and two infantrymen, encountered a wounded American soldier, and the medics provided aid as best they could.
Lisovich stopped the bleeding of a wounded infantryman. He and his team then started emergency surgery while under sniper fire from the Japanese positions in the jungle. During the surgery, his group engaged the enemy in a protracted firefight. After an hour, the medical team moved the wounded soldier to safety, taking turns carrying him three miles on a litter up a steep, winding trail.
Following his return home to the U.S., Lisovich continued to use the medical skills he learned in the Army, and from 1979-1997, he volunteered with the Washington Township Fayette City (Pennsylvania) Community Ambulance Service as an emergency medical technician.
Lisovich was one of the first to claim the distinction and honor to wear the Combat Medical Badge, which was created by the War Department in March 1945. It could be awarded to officers, warrant officers, and enlisted soldiers of the Army Medical Department assigned to the medical detachment of infantry regiments, infantry battalions, and their elements. The need for the badge grew from the requirement to recognize medics who confronted the same hazards and hardships of ground combat with the infantry soldier. The Combat Medical Badge recognized the medic who accompanies the infantryman into battle and also engages the enemy under fire.
As the anniversary of D-Day approaches, it serves to recall what President Ronald Reagan said on Veteran's Day in November 1985 in tribute to our veterans:
"Most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives -- the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for our country, for us. And all we can do is remember."
The list of living World War II heroes grows short. We can never forget what soldiers like Felix Lisovich did. We must tell the next and future generations to always remember what they did.