SUN CITY WEST, AZ - Joseph Cicchinelli has a resume of military honors inside his Sun City West home including a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, and a slew of other medals – some even from other countries.
But for more than 60 years, he’s been fighting to get one of the military’s highest awards for bravery, the Silver Star.
He qualified for the honor during his time with the Army when he fought in the Battle of the Bulge, one of World War II’s largest and bloodiest battles.
“That's what sticks out so much is the red blood upon the snow,” said Cicchinelli.
It’s a horrific image that still haunts him.
He still also vividly remembers risking his own life to save his sergeant shot by enemy fire.
“I crawled through the barbed wire, through the snow until I reached him to get him back to safety,” Cicchinelli said.
A short time later, the Germans captured Cicchinelli and held him captive for six months.
To help get through it, Cicchinelli says he would often pull out a lock of blonde hair from his wife he had tucked away in his jacket.
“I had a piece of her with me. It's something I carried for remembrance,” Cicchinelli said.
While Cicchinelli managed to escape, his war records were destroyed keeping him from receiving the Silver Star.
“I should have had it 67 years ago,” he said.
Thanks to a friend's persistence, the Army finally recognized Cicchinelli 's service and sacrifice and awarded him the overdue honor.
“Going through the red tape and we finally got it. It's still more exciting now. Still can't believe I got it all these years,” Cicchinelli said.
At the age of 88, Cicchinelli said his longest battle is now over.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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