By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO March 31, 2006 More than 60 years after risking his life, losing some of his teeth and being wounded by shrapnel on the front lines of World War II, Edward T. Pierce, a lifelong resident of Cochecton Center, was honored with the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, a Good Conduct Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal & Bronze star attachment (double), the World War II Victory Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award, and the Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII by United States Congressman Maurice Hinchey on Monday at the Sullivan County Government Center.
According to Pierce, the delay for the medals was caused by records that were lost in a fire in Kansas City, Missouri. At least, thats what he has been told for decades.
In front of a crowd of county legislators and dozens of veterans and a full color-guard ceremony, Pierce proudly accepted his medals for fighting as an infantryman in Europe, including the famous Battle of the Bulge.
He entered the service in 1943 at the age of 18 and became a machine gunner and truck driver for the 69th Infantry Division. In April 1945, he was wounded by shrapnel from an artillery shell in Germany. But he was determined enough to return to action in time for the routing of the German forces. He was part of the Army units that met the Russian troops at the Elba River on the border of Germany.
His heroics did not come without a price. During his stay at a military hospital in London, he developed trench mouth from the lack of cleaning of his canteen. That eventually led to him losing some of his front teeth.
While there, he also witnessed the horror of many young soldiers without arms or legs.
He and his wife Kay have three children. At the age of 81, Pierce continues to operate a saw mill and bulldozer and works about three hours a day.
Pierce wasnt the only veteran honored by Hinchey on Monday. Steven S. Prince of Liberty, a veteran of the Vietnam War, was presented with the Air Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal & Bronze Star attachment (double), and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon for his service in the Army from 1970 to 1972.
Prince participated in three separate conflicts with the First Cavalry Army Infantry. Despite being an Army infantryman, he flew in several dozen air assault missions.
Upon his return from the war, he participated in various military ceremonies. He and his wife Mary have two children and four grandchildren. He worked for three years with the Sullivan County Sheriffs Department and then for UPS until his retirement.
Hinchey, a veteran of the United States Navy, said, With our nation still at war, we draw strength and courage from Steven Prince and Edward Pierce and the many others who served our nation during times of war in the past.
"As a fellow veteran, it gives me great pride to present these well-deserved medals to two local veterans from Sullivan County. These medals remind us of the bravery and great sacrifices that Steven Prince and Edward Pierce made in order to serve their country.
Today, we are bestowing very significant military recognition medals on two servicemen who, in the best possible way, represented their country with honor and patriotism, he said.