Saturday, November 24, 2007

WWII Vet Gets Bronze Star 63 Years Later

Wally Olien has never been embarrassed to express his loyalty to the Land of the Free. He's just not one to acknowledge his role in keeping it so. Growing up "I didn't ever realize he was in WWII," says Dawn Marson, Wally's Granddaughter. The war was just wasn't something Wally discussed. "I put that behind me," says Wally, not wanting to go too deeply into the topic. "Not too pretty." Truth is, as part of the D Day invasion, Wally saw things no man wants to relive. "It was pure hell, that's all there is to it." A month after surviving D-Day, Wally was nearly killed by shrapnel from a mortar that tore into his belly and cost him a finger. Wally doesn't talk much about that either. When asked about the missing finger, Wally's great granddaughter Peyton says, "I think he got it stuck in a car door or something."
Wally Olien
Which makes what happened Friday that much more special. Turns out Wally was entitled to the Medal Of Valor, a Bronze Star he'd earned, but never received. With prodding from his friend Tom Quinlan, who shepherded through the paperwork, 63 years after D-Day, Wally finally accepted his recognition at a ceremony at New Richmond's American Legion Post. "It's part of his life that I've never known about," says Wally's Granddaughter Katie Bolger. "Now it's something he can share with us." Wally Olien never sought the medal given him Friday, nor the hugs and thanks from dozens of family members and friends. But isn't it nice that such an honor found him anyway.