Richard Andrew Alley, Sr. passed away last month at the age of 89.
A Jonesboro native, Alley was longtime Islesford resident who fished for a living and, later, did carpentry work on the island. I remember he built a screened porch and entryway on my parents’ house in the 1980s.
I wrote about Richard last year when, 69 years later, he finally received the medals he earned as a combat infantryman in World War II. It was a special occasion for Richard, his family, and the entire island community when Peter Ogden, director of Maine Bureau of Veterans Services (pictured with Richard above), traveled out to the island on a spring morning to recognize Richard’s service at a luncheon and presentation.
In front of more than 100 family members and friends gathered at the island’s Neighborhood House, Richard received a Bronze Star, an Asiatic-Pacific Campaign medal, a Combat Infantryman Badge, and a Presidential Unit Citation ribbon, along with associated official written commendations.
I consider myself lucky that I got the chance to attend the ceremony, to talk to Richard about his experiences, and to write about an important chapter in his life.
Richard, who fought at Leyte in the Philippines and in the fierce Battle of Okinawa, fell ill after the war ended and was separated from his unit, the 77th Infantry Division, when he was sent off for medical treatment. That separation and a fire in July 1973 at the National Archives in St. Louis complicated subsequent efforts to get Alley his hard-earned military commendations.
A stroke of luck helped end Richard’s frustration. Friends and relatives in recent years called members of Maine’s congressional delegation for help and, after first coming up empty, got connected with a clerk in the division’s records office who just happened to have been going through the box with the sought-after information.
Like many veterans, Richard did not make a big deal about his service and preferred not to talk about his combat experiences. Getting the medals was important to him and his family, however – as it should be for all of us who want Richard and other veterans to know that the hardships they experience and the personal sacrifices they make on behalf of their country are greatly appreciated by their fellow citizens.
Click here to see the story, photos and video that the BDN published last year.
Below are some other photos and video I shot during the May 2, 2014 medal presentation ceremony.