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WWII vet says, 'I really earned that Purple Heart!'

World War II veteran Floyd Sczepanski (click for larger version)
July 16, 2014 - Proudly wearing a blue hat with "U.S. Navy" emblazoned across it in big, gold letters, Floyd Sczepanski sat at a table Saturday enjoying the Christ the King Church Veterans Ministry's annual summer hog roast in Oxford (see story on Page 1).

"This is a beautiful affair – very nice," said 92-year-old veteran of World War II, who has been living at the Campbell Personal Care Home in Addison Township since January.

A row of small pins representing all the medals he received in the war, including a Purple Heart, lined his hat.

"I really earned that Purple Heart," said Sczepanski, who's the father of Oxford Village resident Mary Forte. "I was blind for 51 days."

His vessel was at the Japanese island of Okinawa when a typhoon hit and ignited some of the ammunition aboard.

"A 40-millimeter shell exploded" and "burned me badly," he said.

The doctors didn't know whether or not Sczepanski would regain his sight, but he wasn't scared.

"I was too young," he said. "I never thought about it."

Fortunately, his vision returned.

Sczepanski served with the U.S. Coast Guard, which, at that time, had been under the direction of the U.S. Navy since November 1941.

He was a gunner's mate second class and had anti-aircraft training. He spent two-and-a-half years in the south Pacific serving on U.S. Army freighters "hauling bombs, ammunition and 100-octane gas."

His tour of duty took him to Guadalcanal, New Guinea, the Philippines, Admiralty Islands, Corregidor Island, Okinawa and other spots in the United States' effort to defeat the Japanese Empire.

"You name it, I've been there," he said.

After he left the navy in March 1946, Sczepanski went to work for Dow Chemical in Midland, Michigan.

He worked for the company for 40 years, starting as a janitor and retiring as the assistant manager of corporate office buildings.

Looking back, Sczepanski has no regrets about his service to his country. He has only pride. "I'm glad I was in," he said.

His granddaughter, Sarah Catalano, followed in his footsteps. She's a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, serving aboard the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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