Silver Star Awarded to Tri-Cities Soldier Posthumously

<p>Congressman Doc Hastings awards the Silver Star posthumously to PFC Harold Choate's family.</p>

Congressman Doc Hastings awards the Silver Star posthumously to PFC Harold Choate's family.

It took nearly 70 years, but an army private from Tri-Cities who fought in World War II is posthumously awarded the Silver Star Medal today at the American Legion in Pasco Friday.

Private First Class Harold Choate received the third highest military decoration for valor in combat, and two generations of his family proudly gathered to receive the commendation in his stead.

PFC Choate died just three years ago.  But the story here is about a young man, barely 21 years old, who in 1944 not only saved his platoon, but over the years told nobody just what he had done to receive such a medal.

Choate's grandson Jereme Ekiert has followed in his grandfather's footsteps. He served three years in the US Army. He says even he didn't know the extent of his granddad's courage.

"I was doing some research with the historian from the 90th Infantry Division Association. I came across his name and I read this story he had told me all these years, except he used to tell about him being rescued and saved by his buddies -- nothing that he did that was heroic.

In 1944, PFC Choate's platoon had just occupied a fortified concrete bunker in Germany, but they were trapped by the enemy.  Choate advanced through heavy fire to a position where he could fire back, saving more than 35 american soldiers. In the process he was shot several times.

"He got wounded so badly that he lost his eye, his leg got mangled, he had schrappnel from head to toe. It took nearly year a year and a half for him to recuperate," said Ekiert.  

Congressman Doc Hastings awarded the medal to the family posthumously.

"He was a very humble man. He didn't think he would probably qualify for the bravery he exhibited but that's not unusual. Lots of Americans do that. He's just another one in a long line of people that protect our freedoms," said Hastings.

It's clear PFC Choate is remembered fondly by his family, but grandson would have made his grandad proud as well.  Ekiert is now the Vice-Commander of the Kennewick American Legion Post 4.

"My granddad died several years ago. You know he would have really appreciated the medal, and this would have been something that he was very happy to receive,' said Ekiert.

The Silver Star Medal is awarded for 'gallantry in action' against an enemy of the United States.  About 100,000 to 150,000 have been awarded in the last 100 years.

District Commander Bruce Rick made the introduction at the awards ceremony.