Traverse City World War II Veteran Honored by Coast Guard Air Station

They’re known as the greatest generation – American’s who grew up during the Great Depression and went on to fight in World War II.

Many have left us, but those who are still with us are precious.

9&10’s Caroline Powers and photojournalist Derrick Larr show us how one Traverse City World War II veteran was shown some extra love on Thursday.

“It’s been an emotional merry-go-round.”

92-year-old Richard Rizzio can’t go many places without receiving a hand shake or hug.

“He’s basically a community leader and somebody everybody looks up to,” says Cdr. Greg Matyas, Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City.

74 years ago Rizzio found himself heading into the Army, two years into the second World War.

“Was real fortunate to be assigned to General Patton’s Third Army,” Rizzio says. “Went through four major campaigns, Battle of the Bulge being the big one. I cheated death about four times. Very fortunate to come home in one piece. I was wounded couple of times.”

War stories he shares today feel as fresh as the moment they happened.

“I went out and checked one of the gun lines because one of our M7’s was not receiving commands. Went out there and the Germans started to fire at us,” Rizzio recalls. “I had one go right under me and apparently it never went off, and we didn’t stick around long enough to find out. We didn’t know if it was dead or time fused.”

After calling Traverse City home for the last 30 years, Rizzio is moving down state to be closer to family.

But he couldn’t leave without spending time at a place he holds close to his heart – Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City.

“I feel like I’m part of them. I feel like I should be wearing a uniform. They’ve been great,” Rizzio says.

Thursday, they hosted a special goodbye lunch for him complete with his favorite meal – spaghetti.

“It’s amazing. I mean he’s an amazing individual. He’s always supporting veterans, he’s always at all the veterans meetings. I see him all the time for the veteran’s events we have in town,” says Cdr. Matyas. “A big loss for the community of having him around here, but he’s not too far away.”

“I have a hard time saying anything more than this was great. It was a fantastic send away. I will never forget it,” says Rizzio.