After almost 70 years, Warwick’s Albert C. Blais and West Warwick’s Angelo A. Padula Sr. celebrated Veterans Day by receiving the military medals owed to them for their service in World War II.
Last Friday, both men were honored during a special ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Providence where U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse presented each with the five medals that were somehow lost and never given to them when they returned home.
Blais served from 1943 to 1946 in the United States Navy, enlisting when he was only 18. He was a torpedo man aboard the Allen M. Summer Class Destroyer, the USS English. He fought in the Pacific Theater, and saw action in the operations of Formosa, Luzon, Okinawa and Iwo Jima, among others. When he left the Navy, Blais became a career machinist for Brown & Sharpe in East Greenwich.
During Friday’s festivities, Blais was presented with the World War II Victory Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Honorable Discharge Button and the Honorable Service Lapel Pin.
“It’s a tremendous event,” said Blais, who is 88 years old. “I didn’t expect this at all.”
When asked why he decided to enlist at only 18, Blais cited a spiritual connection.
“I don’t know if you can say ‘called by God,’ but I felt obligated to do this,” he said.
Padula, 89, was part of the Company C, 100th Medical Battalion for the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1943 to 1945, serving in both the Pacific and Europe. While in Europe, he was injured during the Battle of the Bastogne but returned to serve in Germany following his recovery. Upon his return from the war, he ran Angelo Padula & Sons Used Auto Parts, his family business.
Padula was awarded the World War II Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal for three years honorable active-duty service, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze star, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze stars, and the Honorable Service Lapel Pin.
“It means everything,” said Padula of finally receiving his medals, something he never thought would happen.
This all started when the Blais and Padula families reached out to Whitehouse’s office for help in tracking down the long-lost medals. Whitehouse explained that the process requires contacting the service to which the individual was enlisted and following the appropriate channels to finally present them.
“It closes a circle of obligation that connects us to the service of these men from 70 years ago now,” said Whitehouse.
Also in attendance at Friday’s ceremony was Brigadier General Charles Petrarca of the Rhode Island National Guard.
“America is the most powerful military in the world, not just because of our advances in technology, but because of the brave men and women who serve,” said Petrarca.
During the ceremony, Whitehouse said one of the best things he gets to do is to connect veterans with their medals and honor them for their service. Whitehouse explained that his father and uncle both served in World War II, however his uncle died while serving.
“I am very happy to have the opportunity to do this,” said Whitehouse. “The freedom we enjoy stands on the shoulders of men like Angelo and Albert.”