NEW BRITAIN, Conn. – A 92-year-old World War II veteran was honored for his service and was presented with campaign service medals, the World War II Victory Medal, and read a letter from President Harry Truman by local Coast Guard members in a small ceremony at his home in New Britain Monday, October, 15.
Sebastian “Pete” Petruzzelli served in the Merchant Marine, where he sailed merchant vessels in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Mediterranean oceans. He was recognized during the small ceremony, which was presided over by Coast Guard Master Chief Todd Holcomb, the senior enlisted member at Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound in New Haven, Conn. The ceremony, attended by Petruzzelli’s wife, children, grandson, and surviving siblings, was an emotional event as his family watched him be recognized for his service.
“It was tough duty, we battled heavy seas, seasickness, and were constantly concerned about attacks from enemy submarines," said Petruzzelli. "I’m grateful for the Coast Guard for coming to my home and recognizing my service in the Merchant Marine."
His time in service was not just tough on him, but also on his family. Like many others at the time, his entire family sacrificed while Petruzzelli was away at sea. For a year and half, Petruzzelli was out of contact with his wife and sisters. He never received his family’s letters, and they in turn never received his, due to the nature of his schedule and the difficulties in mail delivery during war time.
To highlight the lack of communication during the war, Petruzzelli shared his story of how a few days after he returned to Connecticut following the war, a Red Cross worker arrived at his home, with all of the undelivered letters he had sent home to notify his wife that her husband was lost at sea. When the Red Cross worker at the door asked Petruzzelli who he was, he told the audience at the ceremony with a smile, that “I’m the guy who is lost at sea.”
“It was a true honor for me to meet a veteran and hero like Petruzzelli," said Holcomb. "He is a humble man that clearly loves his family and his country, and to be able to present him with his medals so many years after the conflict ended, was a very special opportunity."