NJ WWII Medal of Honor Vet Has School Named After Him - NBC New York

NJ WWII Medal of Honor Vet Has School Named After Him



    PS 14 in his hometown of Bayonne became "Nicholas Oresko Elementary School" in honor of the heroism Oresko showed during WWII's Battle of the Bulge. (Published Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013)

    Nicholas Oresko earned his Medal of Honor nearly 65 years ago.

    And he earned another honor perhaps just as important two months ago.

    That was when PS 14 in his hometown of Bayonne became Nicholas Oresko Elementary School in honor of the heroism he showed during WWII's Battle of the Bulge.

    "I'll be gone in a few years," Oresko told NBCNewYork, then added "I'm almost 94 but my name will be there, it'll be great."

    Oresko, who now lives in the Sunrise Retirement Home in Cresskill, N.J., will be one of four veterans who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor to lead this year's Veterans Day Parade in New York City.

    What did he do that was so heroic?

    "I remember it was cold," he said of his post with Company C of the 302nd of the 94th Infantry Division. "I was miserable and I was scared as hell."

    A German pillbox was laying waste to his unit and orders were to take it.

    So Tech Sergeant (later promoted to Master Sgt. after his heroics) Oresko moved out, telling his men to follow him. He was halfway to the enemy bunker when he looked back and saw he was all alone.

    He went on, threw a grenade inside, then followed up with his M1 semi-automatic carbine to clean out the enemy nest.

    And then came Pillbox Number Two. Again, he told his men to follow him, and again he went on alone.

    "So I looked up at the sky and said 'Lord, I know I'm gonna die, just make it fast," he remembered.

    This time he wasn't as lucky -- a machine gun slug tore through his hip and he went down, a warm, sticky blood oozing out of his side.

    He couldn't explain why, but he kept crawling toward the pillbox, managed to find another grenade and threw it in. Again, he fired his M1.

    In all, 12 German soldiers died because of his heroics -- and his unit was able to advance.

    "I don't know if I could do it," said PS 14 --  excuse us -- make that "Nicholas Oresko Elementary" 8th Grader Myer Armstrong of this soldier whom he met and now admires.  "He's so extraordinary."

    "It was an outstanding choice, he's the perfect model," said Joanne Squitieri, a teacher who worked with Armstrong on the ceremony honoring Oresko.

    Oresko, who had trouble remembering where he kept his medal in his apartment, lost his wife many years ago, and his only child, a son, died a few years back.

    But the idea that what he accomplished will outlive him put a twinkle in his eye, and impressed the students at Nicholas Oresko Elementary as well.

    "I'm honored," said Lizzy Boyle, an 8th Grader and Student Council President who added, "I can't even believe it. Our school didn't have a name for so long."

    Now it does and it is named after Medal of Honor recipient Master Sergeant Nicholas Oresko.

    Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY