SALEM TOWNSHIP, Pa., Nov. 14 (UPI) -- A World War II veteran from Salem Township, Pa., said he was surprised when he was presented with combat medals during a church service.
Dominick Piccinini, 87, joined the Army in 1943 and became a sniper in the 5307th Composite Unit, also known as Merrill's Marauders. He fought in the jungles of Burma, now know as Myanmar, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
Earlier this year, Pastor Jeff Bingman of the New Beginnings Baptist Church learned that Piccinini, a member of his congregation, never received medals for his military service, including a Bronze Star for valor.
Working with Robert Passanisi of the Merrill's Marauders Association, the medals were sent to Bingman in an expedited process that otherwise could have taken up to five years.
Piccinini's niece, Rose Marie Brooks, worked with Bingman to get more than 20 of Piccinini's family members to attend the service at the church Sunday.
Five members of the Jeannette Combined Veterans presented Piccinini with the Bronze Star and a Combat Infantry Badge.
"We recognize -- as a congregation, as your friends and family -- what you sacrificed so we could have the freedom to worship," Bingman said in front of his congregation.
Piccinini said he was surprised and wished that his wife Rose, who died Oct. 14 at the age of 84, had been there to share the moment with him.
"I was shocked. I never expected to get anything like that," he said. "I wish she was here. She was a part of me."