As his friends and family members clapped for him Saturday, Reginald Peterson fixed himself up straight in his wheelchair and began saluting them.
Wearing a uniform that fits him nearly as good as it did 70 years ago, the Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient still looks the part of a proud soldier.
And now he can add one more honor to his list of military accolades. He is now a proud member of the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame.
“I’m most proud of being able to serve my country,” he said from the event honoring him at First Baptist Church in Greenport Saturday.
The East Marion resident served in the Army straight out of Greenport High School from 1943 to 1946, obtaining the rank of Tech Sergeant. He arrived in Europe three days after the Battle of the Bulge and served under General George Patton in a unit that was referred to as the “Ghost Division,” because, as he previously told The Suffolk Times, “you never knew where we were coming from.”
Mr. Peterson, who turned 92 Friday, cites his faith when explaining how he returned to the states in one piece and went on to lead a productive life as a family man.
He met his wife Helen in 1949 and together they raised four kids. Many of the couple’s eight grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren were on hand Saturday as Mr. Peterson was recognized by State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).
“The selection for the New York State Senate Veteran’s Hall of Fame is a fitting honor in recognition of his patriotism and his service to our country,” Mr. LaValle said in honoring Mr. Peterson. “I am very respectful of your generation, the greatest generation, and there will never again be a generation like yours.”
Daughter Cathy Wood of Riverhead choked back tears as she described how fitting an honor this is for her father.
“He is my hero,” she said.
Ms. Wood and Mr. Peterson work together each year on Operation Christmas Child for Samaritan’s Purse, where he helps to pack shoeboxes of supplies and toys that get shipped to children around the world each Christmas.
Ms. Wood said during the war, her father saw firsthand how children suffered and when he was stationed in Germany he would often times not eat his dinner and instead feed it to homeless kids in the street.
The duo has helped supply 16,000 boxes of gifts for children in the past 20 years.
“You have a wonderful heart,” Mr. LaValle told Mr. Peterson. “And it’s filled because you have a sense of religion and a sense of duty.”