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Purple Heart ceremony 30 years in the making for WWII vet

Reggie Peterson, 91, sits in his living room

Reggie Peterson, 91, sits in his living room at his East Marion home on Saturday, April 2, 2016. PVT Reginal W. Peterson officially received his Purple Heart during an awards ceremony for his service in Germany. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Thirty years after receiving a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, World War II veteran Reginald Peterson was honored in a ceremony on Saturday.

Peterson, 90 of East Marion, slipped into his Army uniform as his family, veterans and elected officials recognized him for his valor during the ceremony at the First Baptist Church of Greenport.

“It was a very nice honor and something he never expected after all these years,” said his wife, Helen, 83.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a nonprofit group that attends soldiers’ funerals, held American flags during the ceremony organized by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).

“It was a very special moment for a proud and grateful community and country to say thank you to a member of our nation’s greatest generation,” said Zeldin, an Iraq veteran who serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

The Purple Heart is awarded to those wounded or killed in combat, and the Bronze Star is awarded for heroic or meritorious achievement. Peterson was awarded the medals in 1986.

He served in the 10th Armored Infantry of the 20th Battalion of Gen. George Patton’s Third Army, Zeldin’s office said. For three weeks in March 1945, Peterson was involved in heavy fighting against German SS troops as the Third Army drove into Heidelberg, Germany.

Peterson was hit with shrapnel in his right leg and later shipped home in 1946. He married and had children and eventually became a carpenter.

His daughter, Cathy Wood, 59, of Riverhead, said her father told her that he was slated to receive a Purple Heart but that “they were out of medals when they came to him.”

She wanted him to get the honor, but he didn’t want a fuss about it, she said, telling her that’s not why he served.

“He’s not the kind of man that would have ever gone after it for himself,” Wood said.

So she made the fuss, spending at least a year around 1985 writing federal officials, who later sent the medals to Peterson.

“I wanted to see him honored,” Wood said of yesterday’s ceremony.

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