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The story behind Joe's Silver Star Medal

On the 1st of March, 2012, 67 years after the battle of the Bulge, Joe Cicchinelli was presented the Silver Star Medal for heroism displayed in the 3 rd of January 1945 in Belgium . Here is his story:
On that morning, the chill was particularly unforgiving -- but to remain mobile, each soldier had little more than his jacket, helmet, rifle and ammunition. As point man, Joe was in charge of running ahead of the other troops, scouting the thick pine and cedar forests during an attack on the 3 rd of January 1945 nearby Basse Bodeaux in Belgium .

Joe had just turned 20. Already he had been away from his hometown of Massillon , Ohio , for three years. Inside the seam of his pant cuffs, he had pinned a lock of blonde hair from his wife and high-school sweetheart, Viola Jean. The unit had been waiting for artillery reinforcement that morning. It would never come.
Suddenly, German tanks opened fire, blasting from hills above. Joe could see shells dropping around him as men began scrambling and shouting. Yards away, he heard low moans coming from someone who had fallen in the snow. "Oh, no," Joe whispered.


Don, second from the left
"Really, we were blood brothers," Joe says. "We ate together, slept together, and we suffered together." In an instant, he made a choice, one that would change two lives. He broke cover and ran toward the groans, tossed about by bombs and shells. The air was thick with smoke and fire and the smell of wounded, an odor that would still cause Joe to shake years later. It could have been 10 or 15 minutes before Joe reached the fallen soldier. It was his sergeant, Donald Thompson, conscious but in excruciating pain.
Joe threw his rifle down, grabbed Thompson by the shoulders and collar, and started dragging him down the hill toward a ditch. When Joe reached a barbed-wire fence, he noticed part of Thompson's foot flapping in the air. It was barely hanging on to the rest of his body.

He's going to lose his leg, Joe thought.

He reached inside his jacket and tore away a vial of morphine that each soldier carried. Jamming a needle into Thompson's leg, Joe formed pieces of cloth into a tourniquet. Eventually, other soldiers reached the ditch and carried Thompson off on a makeshift stretcher. Joe rejoined the rest of the unit in what would become known as the Battle of the Bulge.
It wasn't until much later that he would notice his own injuries. A bullet had grazed his chin. A close blast had shattered his right ear drum.


Joe, recieving the Silver medal
"I didn't have time to think for myself," he said. "We do many things in the war and people wonder why you do them."
Miraculously, Thompson not only survived, but Army medics were able to save his leg. After returning to the U.S. in 1946, Thompson nominated Cicchinelli for the Silver Star, the Army's third-highest medal for bravery. All of the relevant war records, however, had burned in the battlefields, and the Army wanted more paperwork.
Cicchinelli didn't press the matter.

He tried to move on, live a normal life. "We were trained to do a job, and we did it as best we could," he said.


Joe's Silver Star
His story might have ended without notice, had it not been for a casual conversation with Ray Rodes, a service officer in the Sun City West Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10695. "Four years ago, he mentioned the fact that he was put in for a Silver Star," Rodes said.When Joe told him it was in 1946, Rodes was aghast. Rodes contacted Sen. John McCain's office, which took on the case. It would be another four years before the Army approved Cicchinelli for the Silver Star.

Don Thompson would never return to his outfit, but he survived the war.
Sadly Don passed away in the early morning of the 28 th of March 2013. Don had always stayed in close contact with Joe, and for a few years the lived as neighbours in Sedona , Arizona.



Don Thompson
March 28th, 2013