After many years and the work of U.S. Rep. John Katko, three central New York heroes received the medals they earned while serving in the U.S. military.
In a pre-Veterans Day ceremony at Solvay Public Library Friday afternoon, Katko presented the medals to Ralph Contreras Jr., of Syracuse, and the families of the late Robert Krazmien Jr., of Syracuse, and Arthur Walsh, of Auburn.
Contreras is a Vietnam War veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force. He was on active duty for four years, from Nov. 30, 1964 to Oct. 10, 1968. He earned three medals: The Air Force Good Conduct Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with one bronze star and the National Defense Service Medal.
Krazmien, who died in 2017, was on active duty with the U.S. Air Force for 21 years, from 1961 to 1982. He rose to the master sergeant and had several responsibilities, including base inspection and worked as an alcohol and drug counselor. He also worked with Air Force officers in the ROTC program at Syracuse University.
Katko presented Krazmien's widow, Patricia Monforte-Krazmien, several medals honoring her late husband. Krazmien earned the Meritorious Service Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster, which recognizes "meritorious noncombatant service," according to Katko's office.
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The other medals awarded to Krazmien included the Air Force Commendation Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster, the Air Force Good Conduct Medal with one silver oak leaf, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Ribbon with two bronze oak leaf clusters, the Air Force Longevity Service Award Ribbon with four bronze oak leaf clusters, the Air Force NCO PME Graduate Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon.
Katko also honored Walsh, an Auburn man who served in the U.S. Army from July 1945 to December 1946. While serving in World War II, he achieved the rank of private first class.
Walsh died in 2011. His children, Laurie Scriven and Tim Walsh, accepted the medals from Katko. The medals awarded to Arthur Walsh include the American Campaign Medal, which recognizes personnel who served one year of consecutive duty sometime between December 1941 and March 1946, and the World War II Victory Medal, which recognizes military service during the war.
Walsh also received the Honorable Service Lapel Button for his World War II service.
Katko said it was an honor to work to secure the "long overdue" awards for the three central New York veterans.
"We can never do enough to thank the brave men and women who put their own lives on the line in defense of our freedom and our democracy," he said. "Every day, members of my team work with local veterans to help navigate the (Department of Veterans' Affairs) and to cut through red tape in dealing with other federal agencies, and I will continue to work across party lines in Congress on behalf of our veterans community."