COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - More than 67 years after he helped rescue a wounded comrade from a mine field in Italy, a Columbia-area World War II veteran received the recognition he had earned.
Former Pvt. Henry Schuessler, now 86, was awarded the Bronze Star in a ceremony at Post Headquarters Monday for his actions during the Battle of Anzio in February 1944.
"It's been a long time coming," Schuessler said. "It was a wonderful ceremony. I'm a happy man today."
Susan Quinn, one of Schuessler's daughters, said a conversation with her father set the events in motion that led to the ceremony.
"One day over the kitchen table, he just told me the story about what he had done in Italy with retrieving the Soldier," Quinn said. "And I mentioned it to Dan Kienker, who is a law school friend of mine. And he said, 'Did your dad ever get that Bronze Star?' and I said, 'No.' He said, 'Well, that's just not right, he should get it.'"
With the help of Kienker, who retired as a colonel after serving in the Air Force for 26 years, Quinn inquired with the National Personnel Records Center about her father's entitlements. She said she was worried that her father's records might have been lost along with millions others in a 1973 fire at the center until a phone call last December eased her mind.
"One day - it was a week before my dad's birthday - I got a phone call from one of the archivists out there, saying, ... 'I'm putting in the order for (your dad's Bronze Star) today,'" Quinn said.
After a few months, the Bronze Star was mailed to the family, but Kienker said he felt the award should be presented in a proper ceremony.
He inquired if Maj. Gen. James Milano, Fort Jackson's commanding general, would be available to award the medal.
"This really is an honor," Milano said. "When I was asked about doing this, I said, 'Absolutely,' because not only is it the right thing to do, but it's very special to have the privilege of recognizing someone with this type of award."
Milano told Schuessler that today's Soldiers stand on the shoulders of veterans who served before them.
"Part of our Warrior Ethos is, 'I will never leave a fallen comrade,'"
Milano said. "Your example that you demonstrated so many years ago in February 1944 in Italy, in Anzio, is just a wonderful example for people today and the importance of never leaving a fallen comrade."
Kienker said he was happy to have played a part in recognizing Schuessler.
"I just think it's wonderful," he said. "I'm just absolutely in awe any time I meet anybody from that generation who served in that war, regardless of the service or what they did."
Maryanne Schuessler, another daughter of Henry and the late Mary Rose Schuessler, said the day was very emotional for her.
"I'm very proud of him. I'm very happy that he lived to see the day," she said. "I wish my mom could be there to see it too, that would be the cherry on the cake."