Freeholder Little: On this Veteran’s Day, I ask our Ocean County residents to remember the brave men and women who have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Forces.
From the cold fields of Valley Forge to the blazing sands of Iraq and Afghanistan, generations of Americans have answered their nation’s call to defend liberty and fight against tyranny.
This year two distinguished veterans, men who served generations apart but share a bond of bravery and self-sacrifice, deserve our special attention.
In March 1942 Nicholas Oresko of Bayonne enlisted in the Army. For the United States, the war was only three months old and the nation was filled with eager young men waiting for their chance to turn the tide against Hitler and the Japanese.
Less than three years later, Master Sergeant Oresko would have his chance.
On Jan 23, 1945 Sgt. Oresko was leading his platoon when his men were pinned down by machine gun fire from a bunker near Tettington, Germany.
He single-handedly attacked the bunker with grenades and his M-1 rifle, killing the enemy troops. He was then struck by machine gun bullets from a second bunker, suffering wounds to his right leg and hip.
Despite the serious injury, he crawled to the second bunker and destroyed it with another grenade. Suffering from a serious loss of blood, he refused to be evacuated until his mission was complete.
Nine months later, Sgt. Oresko stood at attention before President Harry S. Truman and was awarded the nation’s highest honor for gallantry – the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Nicholas passed away on October 4 in Englewood. He was 96 years old and the oldest living Medal of Honor winner in the nation.
Less than two weeks later, President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Army Captain William Swenson of Seattle Washington.
Captain Swenson was honored for his heroic actions in Afghanistan’s Ganjgal Valley when his team of Army troops, Marines and Afghan soldiers was ambushed by the Taliban.
Surrounded on three sides and under heavy mortar, machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire, Swenson coordinated the defensive effort while assisting wounded comrades onto helicopters. At one point in the chaos, he returned fire at the enemy and coordinated air support all while treating a critically wounded sergeant.
They may have never met and they fought in very different wars, but Sgt. Oresko – the oldest Medal of Honor winner – and Captain Swenson, the newest, are forever linked by their valor.
This Veteran’s Day let us honor those who have served, and those who continue the place themselves in harm’s way so that we may be forever free. [TLS]