CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A World War II veteran has finally received awards due him for defending his country and helping to make a good life possible for his fellow citizens.
That was the message delivered by an array of speakers on Monday morning before an enthusiastic crowd at the Hansford Community Center in St. Albans. The guest of honor was Walter V. Filipek, 87, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Filipek, clad in a red, white and blue shirt, appeared exuberant to receive awards he had earned but never formally received.
Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard, applauded Filipek's courage, commitment and service. He said examples set by Filipek and other veterans are "the reason I wear a uniform. I can't thank all of you enough."
U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said, "It's wonderful to be here with Walter Filipek. He epitomizes what I would like to see the younger generation aspire to be like."
Travis Mollohan, representing the office of Sen. Joe Manchin, read statements on the senator's behalf such as, "My children and grandchildren live freely because of soldiers like Mr. Filipek."
St. Albans Mayor Dick Calloway presented a proclamation declaring March 4 to be Walter Filipek Day.
The celebration included presentation of colors by the Marine Corps Junior ROTC from St. Albans High School. Members of the group were about the age of Filipek when he first enlisted just shy of his 18th birthday.
"I wanted to wear that blue uniform," Filipek said. "They sent me to Rhode Island and I asked for my blues. The sergeant said I wouldn't live long enough to wear them. I fooled him. I'm still here and he's probably gone."
However, there were many close calls. Decades would pass before Filipek would mention them.
Filipek, who grew up in Raleigh County, was one of 12 children. His father, Anton Filipek, was a sergeant in the Army, and four of his brothers also served in the military. Joseph, who is deceased, served in the Army. Edward was in the Navy. Theodore served in the Air Force. Andrew was in the Army.
Walter, who now lives in Hurricane, said longtime friend Ellen Mills Pauley started the research that eventually led to receipt of his medals.