SHARON, Pa. (WYTV) – It has been more than 70 years since Chet Burger left the service, but on Wednesday, the 92-year-old from Hermitage finally received some long-overdue recognition.
Burger served in the 339th Infantry of the 85th Infantry Division. He joined the Army when he was just 17, during which time World War II was already underway.
On Wednesday, Valley Congressman Mike Kelly, R-Pa., presented Burger with eight service medals and pins, including the Bronze Star Medal, for his service.
Burger said he spent Christmas Eve of 1943 on a ship going to Africa, where he was trained. At 19, he was captured in Italy and spent 12 months in a German P.O.W. camp.
“They locked 55 of us in a car… Took about two or three days to get from Italy to Germany,” Burger said.
After the war, Burger returned to the Shenango Valley and started a family. Last fall, Burger’s daughter Darlene learned from the local Veterans Affairs director that her dad was eligible for the medals.
“He said contact Congressman Kelly’s office, and he said he’s a man that will work as a liaison,” Darlene Taylor explained.
After much paperwork and months of waiting, the awards finally arrived. Burger said he will split them among his three children — the Bronze Star will go to his son, Chet Burger, Jr.
“Words don’t explain it. It’s like, they didn’t give out a whole lot of Bronze Stars,” Chet Burger, Jr. said.
Burger remained humble about the honor, however. He said he didn’t want to brag, especially since so many others never made it home again.
“[They] deserved them as much as I did, if not more, that they’re still over there, you know,” he said.
Burger said the ceremony was one he wouldn’t forget.