ABC News’ Jennifer Hansler reports:
Tony D’Abrosca enlisted in the U.S. Army just months before graduating from high school at the height of World War II. He went on to serve almost three years in Japan and the Philippines in the Army’s 38th Infantry Division.
After returning to the states, the military told him he would be awarded seven military honors for his courage under fire in the Pacific Theater.
D’Abrosca slowly settled back into life at home and waited for his medals to arrive.
They never did.
Seventy years later, at an event held earlier this week in Rhode Island, D’Abrosca was finally presented with the awards he earned for his service decades ago.
Now 87, D’Abrosca said he had been trying off and on for years obtain them, but to no avail. In a twist of fate, the warehouse where the records of recognition were held was severely damaged in a fire about 25 years ago.
In February, Rhode Island State Rep. Lisa Tomasso learned of D’Abrosca’s case and the medals that had never arrived.
“He said, ‘You’re my state representative, this is what you can do for me,” Tomasso said in an interview with ABC News. She worked with the House Veterans Affairs Office and Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse to secure the medals and coordinate a ceremony.
In an interview, D’Abrosca said was “kind of shocked” to learn that he would finally receive the symbol of recognition.
“It was out of my mind,” he said. “I thought it was a lost cause.”
D’Abrosca’s siblings, children, grandchildren, and his partner Sonia attended the decades-belated ceremony. Tomasso noted that D’Abrosca was visibly choked up when presented with the medals. D’Abrosca, who volunteers weekly with Meals on Wheels, said he was “humbled and surprised.”
“He thought we were making too much of a fuss about him,” Tomasso said.
D’Abrasca emphasized that those who died in the war were the ones who deserved more credit. He dedicated his awards to them.
As it turns out, D’Abrasca’s 70-year wait is not unusual.
“I found out that there is another member of their family who never received their award and has passed,” Tomasso said. She said as her next project she will work to get that medal delivered to the family.