World War II veteran from Elgin receives medals he earned 73 years ago

 
 
Updated 4/14/2019 8:42 PM
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  • Craig Essick, commander of the American Legion Elgin Post 57, pins the World War II Victory Medal on veteran Eugene Termini during a ceremony Sunday. Termini, who lives at the Vines Senior Homes in Elgin, had been waiting for 73 years to receive the medals he earned for his service.

      Craig Essick, commander of the American Legion Elgin Post 57, pins the World War II Victory Medal on veteran Eugene Termini during a ceremony Sunday. Termini, who lives at the Vines Senior Homes in Elgin, had been waiting for 73 years to receive the medals he earned for his service. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Eugene Termini, seated, a World War II veteran living at the Vines Senior Homes in Elgin, is greeted by Craig Essick, commander of the American Legion Elgin Post 57, before receiving the medals he earned during the war.

      Eugene Termini, seated, a World War II veteran living at the Vines Senior Homes in Elgin, is greeted by Craig Essick, commander of the American Legion Elgin Post 57, before receiving the medals he earned during the war. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Coast Guard veteran Eugene Termini watches as members of American Legion Elgin Post 57 carry the colors during a ceremony Sunday at the Vines Senior Homes in Elgin. After waiting 73 years, Termini received the medals he earned for his service during World War II.

      Coast Guard veteran Eugene Termini watches as members of American Legion Elgin Post 57 carry the colors during a ceremony Sunday at the Vines Senior Homes in Elgin. After waiting 73 years, Termini received the medals he earned for his service during World War II. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Cathy Vaden of the Vines Senior Homes in Elgin congratulates resident Eugene Termini, a World War II veteran, on Sunday after he received the medals he earned for his service.

      Cathy Vaden of the Vines Senior Homes in Elgin congratulates resident Eugene Termini, a World War II veteran, on Sunday after he received the medals he earned for his service. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • The World War II Victory Medal was pinned to veteran Eugene Termini's shirt Sunday, 73 years after he earned that and four other awards during his service in the Coast Guard.

      The World War II Victory Medal was pinned to veteran Eugene Termini's shirt Sunday, 73 years after he earned that and four other awards during his service in the Coast Guard. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • After 73 years, veteran Eugene Termini was presented five medals he earned during his World War II service during a ceremony Sunday.

      After 73 years, veteran Eugene Termini was presented five medals he earned during his World War II service during a ceremony Sunday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Photos and mementos from Eugene Termini's service during World War II are displayed on a table at the Vines Senior Homes in Elgin.

      Photos and mementos from Eugene Termini's service during World War II are displayed on a table at the Vines Senior Homes in Elgin. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • After waiting 73 years, World War II veteran Eugene Termini received five medals he earned during his military service.

      After waiting 73 years, World War II veteran Eugene Termini received five medals he earned during his military service. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Elgin native Eugene Termini tried for 73 years to track down the medals he earned while serving in the Coast Guard during World War II.

He finally received them Sunday in a celebration fit for a hero.

Termini, 92, lives at the Vines Senior Homes in Elgin, where he once mentioned to activity director Cathy Vaden that, for reasons unknown to him, he never got his awards after he was honorably discharged from the military in 1946.

Every few years, Termini would try inquiring about the medals but always hit a dead end, he told Vaden. He appeared to make some progress through a local organization this past October, though he was told the process would take more than a year.

So Vaden decided to step in.

"I'm kind of aggressive sometimes, so I started making phone calls, and the next thing I know, I'm talking to Washington, D.C.," Vaden said. "I'm like, 'No, he's not waiting another year. I want those medals.' And they sent them to me."

Termini knew the medals were on their way thanks to Vaden's efforts. What he wasn't anticipating was the fashion in which he would receive them.

Friends and family filled a Vines common room Sunday to watch members of the American Legion Elgin Post 57 present Termini with five awards: the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, a Coast Guard Honorable Discharge pin and an Honorable Service Lapel Button.

Post Cmdr. Craig Essick thanked Termini for his service as he pinned the victory medal to his shirt. In that moment, Termini said, he was overcome with appreciation and joy.

"It's been a long wait," he said. "I never expected anything like this."

Termini was born and raised in Elgin and graduated from Elgin High School in 1945, Essick said during the ceremony. He enlisted in the Coast Guard a month later and served on the USS Key West, a patrol frigate.

Termini occasionally spoke to his family about his time in the military, but he's never been the type of person to ask for any special favors, said son Mark Termini of Elgin. That's part of what makes Sunday's celebration so special.

Termini was happy to serve his country, his son said, and he later became devoted to serving his wife and six children. He now has 14 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

"He's been a rock for all of us," Mark Termini said. "I'm very proud. He's always been my hero.

Photos and mementos from Eugene Termini's time in the military were displayed on a table at the Vines, serving as a reminder of his sacrifice and bravery, Vaden said.

"We have a special place in our hearts for all of our residents, but especially for our military," Vaden said before turning to address Termini. "Thank you for everything you did for us. You deserve this."

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