76 years late, 102-year-old World War II vet receives medals in ceremony

Flaherty served as a medic in the Pacific theater


Time is running out. With less than 2% of America's World War II veterans still living — and the youngest of those that remain now well into their 90s — there just won't be much time left to right past wrongs when it comes to properly honoring those who fought for America in the deadliest war in world history.

So on June 18 Congressman Ed Perlmutter and retired Major General Steven Best took the opportunity to do just that by awarding Reverend Edward Flaherty, Jr. with five medals he had earned as a result of his heroic service during the war, 76 years after the fact.

Flaherty spent four years in the Army, where he served mainly as a medic in the Pacific theater who played what Perlmutter described as “a critical role in treating his fellow soldiers wounds and injuries while assisting with evacuations of casualties.”

Perlmutter said members of his office began looking into Flaherty after a priest who knows Flaherty contacted a Denver city councilman about recognizing Flaherty. The councilman then reached out to Perlmutter's office.

“We found that you were entitled to a number of different medals that you never received when you left the war in 1945,” said Perlmutter. “And so it is our pleasure to be able to recognize you today for the service you provided.”

The five medals Flaherty received included the Good Conduct medal, which is awarded for “exemplary behavior, efficiency and fidelity.” He also received the honorable service lapel button, which was awarded to soldiers who were honorably discharged at the end of the war, and a medal awarded by the Philippines who played a role in the nation's liberation from the Japanese, as well as a flag that was flown over the US Capitol.

Flaherty, who learned that the ceremony would be taking place only moments before those in attendance began to arrive, expressed appreciation for the ceremony even as he joked that he “would've fled to the mountains” if he had known it was coming.

“All I can say is thank you for all of these commendations, most of which I don't feel worthy of accepting but I do appreciate it,” he said. “I hope that spirit that invigorated us in World War II, Korea and so on will be passed to the younger generation today.”

He then went on to bemoan what he described as “the explosion of violence and hatred and venom” that characterizes a significant portion of the country.

“I think most of the trouble today is simply that people don't know what life is all about,” he said. “We're inundated with so many material things that they overlook seeing the prime goal of every single human, namely God. He created all of us himself and that's where we're all headed, whether we like it or not.”

In his remarks, Best, who regularly helps honor veterans at such ceremonies, said honoring Flaherty was particularly special because he continued to serve his country even after taking his uniform off by serving as pastor, teacher and the chaplain for Lowry Air Force base.

Flaherty, who is 102, currently lives at the Xavier Jesuit Center near Regis University and the border of Denver and Jefferson County but will soon be heading to St. Louis, a move which added additional urgency to the ceremony.

“He has been just a quiet force in our community for a very long time,” said Perlmutter. “And so it is a great pleasure and privilege to be able to participate in today's ceremony.”

Reverend Edward Flaherty, Ed Perlmutter, WWII, Philippines, Pacific Theater, medals, Regis Jesuit, Paul Albani-Burgio


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