HONORING A VET WWII CORPORAL GETS TRIO OF SERVICE MEDALS DECADES LATER.
VAN NUYS - Nearly six decades after Army Cpl. Rogelio Magdaleno supported his fellow soldiers in the Battle of the Bulge, the former aircraft mechanic collected the three medals he was awarded for his World War II effort.
For years, Magdaleno figured that all he needed was his own memory to pass on his stories of bravery among his fellow servicemen. But he now realizes that for his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the only reminders of the sacrifices he and his generation made will be the polished service medals he received just two weeks ago.
``The medal doesn't know what I did over there. But for my offspring to see it and they know I was there, that means so much to me,'' said Magdaleno, whose medals arrived just in time for his 81st birthday.
Magdaleno is among the hundreds of veterans every year who petition the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis for service medals granted decades earlier.
Many are men like Magdaleno, who provided support to combat troops, shuttling them supplies on the front lines, repairing their equipment and treating their wounds in field hospitals.
``They are often the unsung heroes of many actions,'' said Army Maj. Todd Breasseale. ``We couldn't fight our battles unless they had the wherewithal to get us into battle.''
Magdaleno had been drafted at 19, pulled from the Lockheed assembly line in Burbank where he was making 90 cents an hour and shipped overseas.
When he was discharged in 1946 at age 22, he was anxious to return home to his sweetheart - so thrilled to be back, he simply forgot to collect his medals honoring his service in the 35th Mobile Reclamation and Repair Squadron.
He and his sweetheart married, used the G.I. Bill to buy a house in Van Nuys and began a family.
And, working for the U.S. Postal Service, Magdaleno tried to forget the images of war - the corpses on the beaches at Normandy and the casualties of the bloody Battle of the Bulge.
Then, he began to feel his age. His wife died in 2001. His hair seemed a little whiter, his life a little shorter. Many of his fellow veterans had disappeared and his grandchildren were having children.
At the urging of his brother-in-law, Magdaleno petitioned for the decorations last year.
``I know that most of the World War II veterans aren't around anymore. I am one of the survivors,'' Magdaleno said. ``So, I got those medals for my offspring for them to see them when I pass away.''
U.S. Rep. Howard Berman, D-Van Nuys, presided over the ceremony, presenting a beaming Magdaleno with the European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal and the Army Good Conduct Medal.
``It's too late in that they should have gotten this earlier. But it's never too late in that they are alive,'' Berman said.
Arik Urquidez, Magdaleno's 26-year-old grandson, said it was one of his grandfather's proudest moments.
``We all knew deep down inside that he was disappointed that he never got them,'' Urquidez said. ``In his eyes, he didn't realize how much they would mean to him.''
Back at home, in the two-bedroom home purchased shortly after his discharge, Magdaleno keeps his medals in a blue cardboard folder.
``I am looking for a case that I can put over there,'' he said, pointing to a wall covered in bookcases filled with family photos.
In it he will place a photo of himself at 19, newly drafted and dressed in a full military uniform. Next to it, he plans to display his three medals so that his family can remember.
``It completes his legacy,'' Urquidez said. ``We always looked upon him as a war hero ... To see him get those medals - it all makes us so happy for him and inspires us that anything we set our minds to we can accomplish.''
Rachel Uranga, (818) 713-3741
(1 -- 2 -- color) Rogelio Magdaleno, left, of Van Nuys just recently collected his medals earned for his service during World War II. As an Army corporal, above, Magdaleno served in the Battle of the Bulge.
Tina Burch/Staff Photographer
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||May 30, 2005|
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