Although it is 68 years later, a local World War II veteran was honored on Oct. 17 with a Bronze Star Medal for his service at Normandy, France in 1944.
Chief Petty Officer Richard E. Grewelle, United States Navy, retired, served in the Navy for over 30 years as a hospital corpsman (paramedic). He received a Bronze Star Medal and the Combat Medical Badge on Oct. 17 from the United States Army for the time when his Navy unit (6th Naval Beach Battalion) supported the 1st Infantry Division on the Normandy beachhead in June 1944 during Operation OVERLORD. He had arrived at the beachhead on D-Day, June 6.
Capt. David Pittlelkow, United States Navy, retired, of Addy, presented the awards to Grewelle at the Chewelah American Legion.
The Bronze Star is the fourth-highest combat decoration and the ninth highest U.S. military award in order of precedence.
Grewelle said the Bronze Star has been awarded to all the members of his Navy medical unit for their service in combat and “treating casualties while bullets were flying by our heads.”
The Combat Medical Badge is awarded for satisfactory performance of duty under hostile fire while supporting a ground combat unit in active combat.
Pittelkow, who met Grewelle about five years ago, said he was honored to present him with these awards as “it is not everyday you get a chance to do this,” he said.
Prior to the medal presentation, Pittelkow recounted a story about Grewelle from the time his unit arrived on the beach in Normandy.
“The history books tell us that the first day of the Battle of Normandy had gone to the Allies, due in large measure to the selfless courage of the men of the 1st Infantry Division and the men who supported them, the 6th Naval Beach Battalion,” Pittelkow said.
Grewelle is originally from Kelso, WA but moved to Chewelah in 2007 with his wife of 66 years, Betty. In addition to his time in World War II, he also served in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
In November 2010, Grewelle was also presented the French Legion of Honor at the Chewelah American Legion for his service in WWII.
Betty Grewelle said that they were engaged just after he returned from Normandy, but she is learning the most about his service from these award ceremonies. He did not speak much about his time there, she said.
They have six children, 19 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren. Grewelle’s granddaughter, Kari Hyden, said she never knew about his interesting past while serving in the Navy until she interviewed him for a school assignment three years ago. She is trying to encourage him to write the stories down.
“He has told very few family members,” Hyden said. “I’m honored he would tell me.”
Grewelle thanked everyone who came to the award ceremony and said this award has “been a long time coming.”
By Kellie Trudeau, The Independent Staff
In This Photo: Capt. David Pittelkow pins on the Combat Medical Badge. Ashli Manson photo