CLAVERACK, NY (WNYT) - A World War II veteran has finally received some long overdue medals.
91-year-old Ralph Avery of Claverack, New York was at Omaha Beach during World War II. He went back in later years to see thousands and thousands of white crosses there.
"I would have liked to stop and say a prayer at each one of them, but if I did, I'd still be there," said Avery. "All those guys weren't as lucky as I was. And I say my prayers every night to be sure I'm not dreaming."
Avery came home from war, and like many veterans he went on with his life, working and raising a family.
Recently, his wife Dorothy went on a search for his service records.
"She reached out to us, and our office worked with the Department of Defense to get those records and then we said, well, we're getting the records, let's get the medals," said Congressman Chris Gibson.
It took eight months of hard work for Congressman Gibson's office, culminating in a medal presentation to the Navy veteran in Gibson's office in Kinderhook.
Avery, who took part in the dangerous and deadly operation that ended up changing the course of history, was awarded medals including the Combat Action Ribbon and the World War II Victory Medal.
"I really can't say. I'm so proud, I did what I was taught to do," said Avery, after receiving the medals. "I was one of the lucky ones that made it out of there. It's 70 some years ago and it seems just like yesterday when all this happened, so you never actually get rid of it."
Avery remembers the friends that made it back, and those who didn't. He is grateful for the help of Congressman Gibson.
"He deserves an awful lot of credit because he did a wonderful job. It just made us feel more to home than we did before," said Avery.
And now this member of the Greatest Generation, who many call a hero, was recognized for his courage and sacrifice on behalf of a grateful nation.
In remembering his war-time service, Avery said if he had to do it again, he wouldn't want to do it, but he wouldn't refuse.
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