Better Late Than Never, WWII Vet Finally Gets Medal

SCRANTON -- A World War II veteran from Scranton is getting the recognition he deserves more than 70 years after earning it.

Private First Class Andrew Evanik is now 91 years old.

Only months after graduating high school, Evanik was shipped off to the Philippines where he earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. He earned a third medal, too but never received it.

It never bothered him until recently.

"Can't forget it, no one knows what war is until you're there," he said.

Andrew Evanik of Scranton never talked much about his experience in the Pacific during World War II. He was drafted just months after finishing high school.

Now 91, he's opened up a bit.

"I graduated in June, and in October I was already in the Army. That's how fast it was," he recalled.

Evanik confided in his kids that he never received one of the three medals he earned in the service -- the Philippine Liberation Medal.

"I wanted to get all my medals together, and when I'm getting ready to pass on, one of them can have them all," he said.

All three of them are now together -- the Philippine Liberation Medal, a Purple Heart, and a Bronze Star he earned for helping wounded soldiers while he himself was taking fire.

State Representative Marty Flynn's office helped to get them all together.

They surprised Evanik with the long lost liberation medal during his Thursday night ritual calling bingo at the Jackson Heights senior apartments where he lives.

"It was the shock of my life! One man, Thom was standing right there and he thought I was a player or something. He said we're going to take pictures or something. I didn't know what he was talking about, and I didn't realize it. It was really shocking to me," said Evanik. "Wonderful!"

It took more than a year's worth of back and forth with the Philippine embassy in Washington D.C. but it was well worth the wait.

"Just to see the look on his face when he got it, it was awesome, better late than never," said Rep. Marty Flynn, (D) 113th District.

Evanik says the older he gets, the more he wants his family to know about his service in World War II, and have sufficient records of it. That's why tracking down the lost medal was so important to him.

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