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North Olmsted WWII vet finally gets his medal

Header: North Olmsted WWII vet finally gets his medals

Photo courtesy of Beth Reitz
North Olmsted Mayor Kevin Kennedy pins one of his long-awaited medals on Tom Devries World War II Navy veteran during a ceremony July 27 at the North Olmsted Senior Center.

Photo courtesy of Beth Reitz
North Olmsted Mayor Kevin Kennedy shakes World War Navy veteran Tom Devries hand after pinning two long-awaited medals on him.

Photo courtesy of Beth Reitz
North Olmsted Mayor Kevin Kennedy, World War Navy veteran Tom Devries and his daughter Linda and son Tom after a ceremony where Devries received two long-awaited World War II medal.

 

 

By JEFF GALLATIN

NORTH OLMSTED – For World War II Navy veteran Tom Devries, a July 27 long-awaited ceremony at the North Olmsted Senior Center couldn’t have happened without help from a friend.

Devries, a Navy signalman who was one of the sailors who had the responsibility of keeping German U-Boats out of the naval facilities and Port of Spain on the island of Trinidad in 1944 and 1945, received two long overdue medals for his military service. North Olmsted Mayor Kevin Kennedy pinned the medals on the 91-year-old Devries while his family and friends watched. One, the American Area Campaign Medal, was for serving in a combat area during Word War II. The other was the victory medal for serving in the armed services during World War II.

Devries, who went on to a 27-year career as a City of Cleveland police officer after the war, credited Jackie Chavez-Anderson, administrator for the senior center, with helping him get the medals after years of trying.

“I’d tried at different times to get them and really wasn’t able to get anywhere,” Devries said. “I had filled out forms and provided the information they requested and wasn’t able to get it. Another time, when I worked out one of the persons told me that my records had been destroyed in a fire so he couldn’t do it. I really didn’t know that I’d ever get them.”

However, during a conversation at the senior center earlier this year when Chavez-Anderson complimented Devries on a World War II veterans’ cap he was wearing, he had noted that he had never received the medals.

“He didn’t make a big deal of it, he just said it as part of the conversation,” Chavez-Anderson said.

However, Chavez-Anderson said she saw it as a big deal.

“He’s a veteran, these people took care of us during the war,” she said. “I didn’t think it was right at all that he didn’t have those medals. Especially when you consider how long it’s been since the war and that he had made attempts. We have veterans who are dying every day. Tom is really sharp and other seniors who come to the center and the staff all really enjoy being around him. We wanted him to get these medals while he can still appreciate them.”

Chavez-Anderson, who along with other senior center staff do serve on occasion as advocates for seniors, said she then started making phone calls.

Devries said he appreciates what Chavez-Anderson did.

Referring to his service, he noted he had enlisted and entered the war in 1944.

“It was a pretty big year with D-Day in June and the Battle of the Bulge later in the year,” he said.

After undergoing his training, he embarked on an eight-day trip to get to Trinidad. “It was through water which we knew had the German U-boats in them and we knew they were still sinking a lot of ships,” he said.

Once he arrived, Devries found that he wasn’t done with worrying about U-boats. He and other soldiers tended and watched the nets that were stretched out across the water to keep them out of the harbor and way from ships, he said.

He developed close friends with six men and they kept in touch but only of them survives.

 

He noted that he had made the transition to another uniformed service, that of Cleveland Police patrolman. “My father was a Cleveland officer who retired as a sergeant and it also had what was good pay for people,” he said.

He again found himself in the position of taking care of the safety of others, both citizens and other police officers, when he ended up working on health programs for other officers.

Two of his four children, Don and Linda, attended the ceremony.

“I’ve always been proud of him,” said Don, who owns All American Karate in Cleveland and has worked with many armed service and safety force workers. “This is something he earned and deserves credit for.”

His sister also lauded their father. “It’s special to see, especially after all this time,” she said.

For Tom, he was glad to have family and friends at the ceremony but admitted to feeling relief.

“It means a lot,” he said. “Like many people, I earned the medals.”
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