By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — A moment 74 years in the making came to fruition July 12 when the Purple Heart award was pinned onto U.S. Marine veteran Anthony Procassini’s jacket
during a ceremony at the Fort Dearborn American Legion Post, 3001 S. Telegraph Road.
He was surrounded by fellow veterans, elected officials and more than 20 family members, including children and grandchildren who traveled from out-of-state to witness the special moment.
Procassini, 98, took the mic joking that he had 15 pages of notes for his acceptance speech, which received a laugh from the crowd in attendance. He also mentioned that his late wife, Marguerite Procassini, who died in April 2018, couldn’t be there to share the moment.
“We all know the process of 75 years was a long time, but it was worth the effort because it gave me the opportunity to share the award results with my grandchildren,” he said.
Procassini submitted paperwork to the National Records Center during World War II, but didn’t hear back about his Purple Heart Award after he returned home in 1946.
Marine Corps League Spokesperson Chuck Bernard said Procassini was motivated by his granddaughters to follow up on receiving the Purple Heart award earlier this year.
In April, Procassini and six other World War II Marine veterans met with Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller to put the process in motion.
After the meeting held at the Marine Corps League’s Dearborn Detachment, Procassini’s records were gathered and submitted for consideration in May. Neller expedited the process which led to the July ceremony.
Bernard also said the ceremony was held in Dearborn because they wanted to host something bigger than a typical presentation in Procassini’s living room in Ann Arbor.
The Purple Heart award was established by General George Washington in Newburgh, N.Y., on Aug. 7, 1782.
According to the History website, “the Order of the Purple Heart, the oldest American military decoration for military merit, is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who have been killed or wounded in action against an enemy. It is also awarded to soldiers who have suffered maltreatment as prisoners of war.”
At the age of 22, Procassini enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in November 1943. He completed basic training that December where he was trained as a mortar crewman and subsequently assigned to the First Marine Division.
He was part of the Item Company, Third Battalion, First Marine Regiment where he served under legendary Marine Col. Lewis “Chesty” Puller.
Procassini’s unit first landed on the Japanese Island of Peleliu for a two-month battle on Sept. 15, 1944. The First Marine Regiment suffered a casualty rate of 56 percent, more than another unit on Peleliu.
“They were the first unit to be relieved, and returned to Solomon Islands to re-outfit and prepare for their next battle,” the news release read.
In 1945, Procassini fought as a member of the First Marine Division when his unit landed and became involved in a fight with Japanese defenses.
During the Battle of Okinawa on May 14, Procassini suffered a concussion in an explosion and spent one month in the infirmary recovering. By the time of his recovery, the battle for Okinawa was won, according to a Marine Corps League Dearborn Detachment news release.
“Following the Japanese surrender, he was promoted to the rank of corporal and reassigned to a Marine unit in Tsingtao, China,” the release read. “There, on at least one occasion, the Marines fought a pitched battle against Chinese Communist forces.”
On Feb. 16, 1946 Procassini was discharged at the Great Lakes Station after returning to the United States. Anthony and Marguerite Procassini settled in Ann Arbor, becoming life-long residents and raising their nine daughters and one son.
Following his graduation from the University of Michigan, Anthony Procassini worked in the Willow Run Airport Human Resources department and then 28 years with Bendix Corp.
Procassini started a career in business when he launched his own company before retiring at the age of 93. Known as a committed U-M sports fan, Procassini was honored as the Veteran of the Game during a 2018 game.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])