WAYNESBURG – A little more than 67 years have passed since Paul Crayne, 100, of Waynesburg, boarded a boat home from serving in World War II. On Wednesday, just in time for the Fourth of July, Crayne finally received the medals he earned as a U.S. Army private.
He was expecting just one medal, the bronze star, listed on his discharge papers. Instead, Crayne was given a presentation box containing four. He also received an honorable service lapel pin. Congressman Tim Murphy, R – Upper St. Clair, visited Crayne’s residence, just outside of Waynesburg, to make the presentation.
“We wanted to get it to you before the Fourth of July,” Murphy said. “We thought it was fitting.” He went on to explain to Crayne what each medal represented. Crayne received the Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with bronze star attachment and the WWII Victory Medal.
Murphy, a U.S. Navy veteran, listened intently as Crayne shared a brief version of his military service and family life since. Crayne apologized for not being able to stand, explaining he has a difficult time walking – that stemmed from a spinal abcsess he had during the war from riding in truck convoys. It was surgically removed during the war, but Crayne said it led to the spinal stenosis he suffers from today.
Crayne’s wife, Wanita, 96, credited Hester Cain of the Disabled American Veterans chapter from Greene County, and Dalene Watson of Greene County Veteran’s Affairs, for bringing her husband to the attention of Murphy.
“God bless Hester Cain. She’s the one that got the ball rolling,” said Wanita.
Cain was behind the replacement of an American flag, flying next to Crayne’s home, just in time for Veteran’s Day 2012. For many years, Wanita had repaired the old flag, stitching places where it would fray and respectfully lowering it in inclement weather. Her stitchery earned her the title of Betsy Ross from the couple’s daughter, Connie, 72.
Just in case the new one ever needs to be replaced, Murphy also gave the Crayne’s a flag. He smiled at Wanita and told her she wouldn’t have to stitch a flag again.
In addition to the help of Cain and Watson, Connie said a 100th birthday celebration for her father, held in March by the Waynesburg American Legion Post 330 and its Ladies’ Auxiliary, was another catalyst of the recognition for Crayne.
Not long ago, he seemed to fly under the radar of the veteran’s organizations, according to Connie. When he returned from the war she was not yet 6 years old and Crayne quickly went to work at a manufacturing plant in Washington. A couple years later, son Larry Paul, was born. There wasn’t time back then to seek out membership in the organizations. And, it was 36 years before Crayne would retire from the manufacturing plant.
He said it was many years before the Interstate was completed, leaving him with only one way to Washington, via Route 19. In all that time, Crayne missed just one day of work, Connie said proudly.
“It was 1950, the day of the big snowstorm,” Crayne said. “Guys that lived close missed two or three days. If you think the boss didn’t get on them with me driving from Waynesburg…”
It wasn’t surprising coming from a man who hitchhiked part of the way home upon his discharge. The bus line was on strike, so Crayne took a cable car from Pittsburgh to Washington and from there hoofed and thumbed his way back to Wanita and Connie.
When he finished telling stories, Crayne thanked Murphy for coming.
“I’m in the Navy, so we’re all on one team, right? I appreciate all you went through,” Murphy said, before leaving for a flag presentation elsewhere. “Well sir, have a great Fourth of July.”
Along with the medals, Crayne is now receiving $156 per month from the Veteran’s Administration to assist with the purchase of medication. Connie said it was money her father probably should have been receiving for a long time.
“I think when they (realized) they missed the thing they should have given him some back pay,” she said. “It seems like a shame, you’ve gotta wait ‘til you’re 100 years old.”