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Palos Hills WWII veteran gets long-sought medals for Navy service (September 13, 2019)

Mike Nolan
September 13, 2019

Some 75 years after World War II’s end, a 95-year-old Palos Hills man who served in the Navy during the war has finally received long-awaited medals.

During a ceremony Tuesday at the Pentagon, U.S. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer presented Bernard Bartusiak with the Distinguished Flying Cross with a gold star and the Air Medal in recognition of 20 combat missions Bartusiak completed from April 1943 to August 1944, according to Navy officials.

The Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded for Bartusiak’s “extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight,” while the Air Medal recognizes “single acts of heroism or meritorious achievement” in flight," Navy officials said in a news release.

Bartusiak and family members, including daughter Candace Sobor, were flown to Washington for the presentation, which Sobor called “absolutely remarkable.” Her father described the experience as “overwhelming.”

He joined the Navy in May 1941 at age 17, according to the release. Bartusiak eventually served as an aviation machinist’s mate 1st class on the aircrew of a PB4Y Liberator in the European theater, Navy officials said.

In presenting the medals, Spencer said "his honor may be overdue, but I am humbled by the opportunity to present it,” according to Navy officials.

Sobor said that she, her father, her sister and she and her sister’s spouses were given a tour of the Pentagon following the medals ceremony, Sobor said.

Sobor said her father had received other service medals while serving in the Navy, and, two years ago, enlisted the help of U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Western Springs, who also was at the ceremony. Lipinski’s office said the congressman took on the effort to obtain the medals after meeting Bartusiak at a senior fair Lipinski had hosted in 2017.

The congressman’s office worked with the Navy to provide support materials, and Lipinski learned in late July of this year that the medals had been approved, according to his office.

“They were our advocate,” Sobor said of the help provided by Lipinski’s office.

Bartusiak and his wife, Dolores, were married for 65 years until her death two years ago, according to Lipinski’s office.

After the war, Bartusiak became a corporate accountant and started his own accounting and tax service, Sobor said.

Bartusiak was the youngest of seven children and was born and raised in Chicago, according to Lipinski’s office.

At the medals ceremony, Lipinski said, “Mr. Bartusiak’s sacrifice and dedication to our country are an inspiration to us all,” according to the release from his office.