Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Veterans medals — It’s been a long time coming

Mar 16, 2016
In The News

Like the majority of World War II veterans, Edward Matako and Harold Reed never thought about earning medals for their service to country, nor did they expect any.

But the two Kern River Valley veterans not only received their long overdue and well-deserved medals, they received them in a big way thanks to the efforts of Congressman Kevin McCarthy and local veteran advocate Gary Zuber who organized a special medal presentation ceremony last week.

Despite the afternoon rain and cold temperatures, approximately 100 local veterans and guests gathered at Paradise Cove restaurant on Friday, March 11, where Congressman McCarthy recognized both Matako and Reed for their impressive accumulation of earned medals.

Both Matako and Reed were aware that they would be receiving their medals of service, but it wasn’t until they walked into a packed room of fellow veterans and guests that they realized they were the guests of honor.

“So many World War II veterans never received their medals,” Zuber said. “It was not due to an oversight, they just didn’t care about medals because they weren’t expecting anything.” Zuber said that with help from McCarthy’s office, area WWII veterans have finally been able to get the medals they deserve.

Zuber called it his “top secret mission” in arranging the ceremony with Congressman McCarthy who served as special guest speaker. And although McCarthy was welcomed as such, he made sure that the afternoon was all about the veterans in the room.

“It is an honor to be here and I feel so privileged to represent an area that honors their veterans,” McCarthy said. “It says a great deal about this valley.”

McCarthy said he considers it his job as a member of Congress to fight for the nation’s veterans and ensure that they are thanked for their service.

“Today we honor two heroes and we want to make sure that they know how grateful we are for what they did for us,” McCarthy said. “They weren’t doing what they did thinking about medals, they were just doing what they were supposed to do.”

97-year old Edward Matako voluntarily served in the U.S. Navy from 1937 to 1956. His final rank was Chief Petty Officer. He served on several ships in the Atlantic and Pacific, including the USS Arizona and narrowly missed the bombing at Pearl Harbor. The Lake Isabella resident attributed the fact that he was not on the ill-fated ship because of a small metal angel that his daughter gave him, an angel that he always kept with him in his wallet. After retiring from the Navy, he worked as an iron worker and painter in Garden Grove for 24 years. Matako also served in the Navy Reserve for 10 years. He is a widower, after 66 years of marriage to his wife, Grace. They had four children and eight grandchildren.

McCarthy read the long list of medals that Matako had earned, including:

Navy Good Conduct Medal with 1 Bronze Star

World War II Victory Medal

American Campaign Medal

American Defense Service Medal

Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with 2 Bronze Stars

European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal

Navy Occupation Service Medal with Asia Clasp

National Defense Service Medal

Korean Service Medal with 1 Bronze Star

United Nations Service Medal

Combat Action Ribbon

Honorable Service Lapel Button

Matako said he joined the Navy because he liked the clean white uniforms. “It took me nine months to get into the Navy and 20 years to get out,” he said.

Harold Reed, 92, was drafted along with his twin brother into the U.S. Army Air Corps where he served from Dec. 30, 1942 to Aug. 30, 1945. His rank was Private First Class and he worked as a mechanic with the 8th Army Air Corps. He served in Europe and was in England when the war ended.  Reed owned Hal’s Crane Service in the San Fernando Valley until his retirement in 1984. Reed and his wife LaVon have been married for 61 years and live in Wofford Heights. They have two sons and four grandchildren.

Reed’s list of medals includes:

Army Good Conduct Medal

European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 1 Bronze and 1 Silver Service Star

World War II Victory Medal

Honorable Service Lapel Button

Presidential Unit Citation Award

“I’m trying to figure out why I got the good conduct medal,” Reed joked. Later, he said that the medals were important, as he wants to pass them on to his grandchildren.

McCarthy called all veterans heroes. “Without every World War II veteran, we would not have the World War II Victory medal. I want you to know how grateful we all are for your sacrifices,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy invited any WW II veteran who has not yet received their medals or who has not yet been on the Honor Flight to visit the war memorials in Washington D.C. to contact his office.

Members of the Kern Valley Sheriff’s Activity League (SAL) were on hand during the recognition ceremony to serve refreshments to the attendees. SAL student Melissa Scoggan opened the ceremony by singing the National Anthem.  

To the SAL students, McCarthy offered a simple reminder. “How you treat your veterans says a lot about your country. When America is strong, the world is safe. We need to make America strong again,” he said.