One of Merrill's Marauders presented medals during ceremony at Fort Benning

benw@ledger-enquirer.comApril 26, 2013 

Using a cane and taking short steps, retired Master Sgt. Vincent Melillo stood proudly Friday as he was presented seven medals earned as a member of Merrill’s Marauders during World War II and the Korean War.

“This is one of the happiest days,” Melillo said after the 10 a.m. ceremony at Fort Benning’s Hurley Hill.

With more than 150 Ranger School graduates looking on, Brig. Gen. David Haight presented Melillo the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Defrense Service Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation and the coveted Ranger Tab.

Melillo, 94, of Columbus praised the efforts of his daughter, Jonnie Clasen, for working on the Internet and figuring out there were medals the soldier of two wars never received. “If I didn’t have my daughter, I don’t know what I would do without her,” he said. “She is everything. We take care of each other.”

Merrill’s Marauders were the first American troops to fight the Japanese on land in Asia during World War II. Traveling more than 1,000 miles, the soldiers traveled farther on foot than any other fighting unit. One of the highlights of the all volunteer unit was capturing the airstrip at Myitkyina, Burma, opening up an allied supply line into Asia.

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