Almost 70 years after the end of World War II, a highly-decorated U.S. Marine finally got the ribbon he and his unit earned.
Private First Class Jesse Thomas, 87, of Cochranville stood before a room packed with fellow veterans at the Parkesburg VFW on Sunday and received the Presidential Unit Citation issued to him by President Harry Truman in 1945.
Thomas, who was involved in heavy combat and wounded three times, is also the only surviving member of the team that raised the United States flag on Okinawa in southern Japan when the war ended. He has two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star as well, but until this weekend lacked the citation that he either never got or was lost.
When he was asked how he found out he was supposed to get the colorful ribbon with horizontal stripes, he said he was certainly not called to the White House, nor did the president come to Japan to present it. “He didn’t want to be where I was,” he said.
Thomas, a lifelong Cochranville resident, went to Philadelphia and joined the Marines when he was 17. He was returned to duty shortly after each of the wounds he received during the war. “They patched me up and put me back in the line every time,” he said.
When the end of the war was declared, he was one of four members of the 6th Marine Divison there chosen to plant the U.S. flag on a hill. The event is recalled on a painting that was on display at the VFW on Sunday.
How did he feel? “I was happy. It was the end of the war,” he said.