I am always so proud and honored to be invited to events celebrating our country’s veterans, and today was no different.
World War II ended well over sixty years ago, but today, 87-year-old Army Staff Sgt. Arthur E. Ross was awarded a Bronze Star for “exceptionally meritorious service” in Europe. Standing before family, friends, and members of the community, in a ceremony hosted by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Ross received his medal from JPAC commander Army Major General Stephen Tom.
Staff Sgt. Ross, who became a lawyer after serving as an infantryman in WWII, has been known throughout the Hawaii community since moving here in the early 1970s. He was the supervisor of the Appellate Division at the City Prosecutor’s office before resuming private practice in 1988, specializing in criminal defense. Ross retired from law in 2009, after a fight with cancer that has since gone into remission, but left him requiring an oxygen tank at his side at all times.
According to Maj. Gen. Tom, who knew Ross as a friend and fellow lawyer over 30 years ago, he never knew of Ross’ heroic service until their other friend, retired Col. Tom Farrell contacted him a few months ago. Ross had been only 20 years old when he was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge, the largest and bloodiest battle for America in WWII, which earned him the Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) and a Purple Heart. Throughout his military career as a Rifleman in the 328th Infantry, Ross fought in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Czechoslovakia, and Germany, which included the Ardennes, Central Europe, and Rhineland campaigns. Upon learning that Ross had never received the Bronze Star, which he was eligible for due to receiving the CIB in WWII, Farrell did some research and confirmed Ross’ eligibility, which led to today’s ceremony.
With his wife and daughter sitting proudly at his side, Staff Sgt. Ross listened to his friend Maj. Gen. Tom tell the newly learned stories of his service, before standing proudly to be awarded his medal. He then took to the podium, and it was a treat to hear the former lawyer speak. It particularly struck me when he spoke of how his current ailments have left him with depression, but that to be finally receiving this award was a “proud and meaningful moment” in his life, even quipping that it made him want to live a few years longer. I had just been discussing with my husband how all remaining WWII veterans are almost all well into their 80s, and to hear this elderly man who has lived such a full life speak so openly about the struggles of aging, it made me tear up and miss my own grandfathers, who passed away before I ever thought to ask them about their experiences during the war. Ross went on to say that his only regret about the delay in being awarded the Bronze Star is that his parents did not live to see it happen.
After concluding his speech, Staff Sgt. Ross was joined by Maj. Gen. Tom, and they sang the Army song as the band played.
Once the ceremony was over, Staff Sgt. Ross returned to his seat. A huge line formed, wrapping around the tent, as family, friends, his former law colleagues (including several judges), and even Honolulu’s mayor gathered to congratulate the veteran hero on his special day.
With the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks happening in just a few weeks, today was another reminder for me that we need to cherish our time we have left with our World War II veterans, who have often been called America’s Greatest Generation. I wish Staff Sgt. Ross the best, and may the recognition of his service continue to bring him joy!