BRONZE STAR PRESENTED 59 YEARS LATE.
There's no telling how many of the Easy Company soldiers who Cam Galieti fought with during World War II's Battle of the Bulge are still alive. Probably not that many, 59 years later.
But he's on a mission to find every one of them - or at least a member of each soldier's family - because the government owes them something: the Bronze Star for bravery.
In February 1945, Gen. George C. Marshall awarded it to every infantryman who fought at the Battle of the Bulge. The general was concerned that this group of soldiers - who suffered more casualties in 110 days of brutal, bloody fighting than any branch of service - wasn't getting the recognition it deserved.
In Easy Company of the 78th Infantry Regiment alone, 67 men died and more than 400 were wounded, including Galieti, who received a Purple Heart. His company had a 300 percent turnover of men in that 110 days.
When the war ended, the lucky ones went home and never looked back. Their priorities were getting a job and starting a family - not getting a war medal.
Somehow, the Bronze Star that Marshall wanted his infantrymen to have never got to most of the men.
``I found out it had been awarded to us about six months ago, reading a magazine the 78th Division puts out,'' said Galieti, who returned home from war to start a family and embark on a 50-year career as a State Farm Insurance agent in the San Fernando Valley.
He'll be 81 in August, and still goes into his Northridge office five mornings a week. He spends the afternoons volunteering at the North Valley YMCA.
``He is one remarkable man who's been involved with his kids and grandkids in this Y for 50 years,'' said executive director Jane Stanton.
``It doesn't surprise anyone who knows him that he would be taking on a big project like this because Cam is one of the most loyal, respectful men you will ever meet.''
Respect. That's what it all comes down to when you look back and start taking stock of your life.
At the same time he was reading about Marshall's lost medal, he got a call from a young man whose father had served with Cam in Easy Company.
Cam remembered the man, even had an old photo of him. There were five of them standing in the rubble of a German town after another tough assault.
``Of the five guys in the picture, all were killed or wounded in the next 30 days,'' he said. ``I was one of the wounded. The kid's father stepped on a mine and was killed.''
The young man just wanted to talk to Cam about the father who was killed before he was even born.
The phone call had a big impact on him, Cam said. When he asked the young man if there was a Bronze Star among his father's war medals, he was told no, it wasn't there.
That's when Cam sat down and wrote the Army a letter - sending along his discharge papers, and asking how he could go about getting that Bronze Star for himself and his buddies in Easy Company.
This wasn't about a medal, he knew. It was about respect.
On April 9, Cam walked to his mailbox and found a package from the U.S. Army.
``I opened it up and my Bronze Star was inside with a note saying, here's your medal,'' Cam said. ``I thought, 60 years and this is the way I get it, in a paper bag. It didn't sit right.''
It didn't sit right with Staff Sgt. Truman Stine of the Army's Recruiting Station in Reseda, either.
``When he called and told me the story, I felt an injustice had been done to him,'' Stine said Friday. ``The Army had gone about giving him his medal the wrong way, and I knew this was something that had to be fixed.''
On Saturday, in a ceremony at the North Valley YMCA attended by Cam's family and friends, Army Lt. Col. Terrence Marsh awarded Cam his Bronze Star from the Battle of the Bulge, nearly 60 years earlier.
And now the former platoon leader of Easy Company has embarked on another mission for his men. Making sure Marshall's special medal gets to as many of his buddies still alive, or their families, as he can find.
Cam can be reached at his office five mornings a week at (818) 886-8800.
Dennis McCarthy, (818) 713-3749
Lt. Col. Terrence Marsh pins the Bronze Star on Battle of the Bulge veteran Cam Galieti, 80, on Saturday at the North Valley YMCA.
Joe Binoya/Special to the Daily News
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||May 16, 2004|
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