John Geas stood before a room full of friends, family, fellow Marines and government officials Friday and attempted to hold back the tears.
“I was there,” he said, recalling briefly his time serving in the World War II campaign at Iwo Jima.
Nearly 70 years later, in a ceremony at Zody’s 19th Hole on Stillwater Avenue, he was honored for that service.
Geas, 92, a retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Sergeant in the 4th Marine Division’s Tank Battalion, was discharged in 1946 after serving in four campaigns in the Pacific — Guadalcanal, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima.
But the Stamford resident lacked the honors. He had lost his numerous medals decades ago during a move from Massachusetts to New York.
Geas said he would watch his fellow Marines dress in their uniforms and show off their medals and lament that he couldn’t do the same. “I had nothing,” he said.
Geas’ wife, Tessie, with whom he will celebrate 60 years of marriage soon, said he didn’t talk much about his medals and certainly never thought to request them.
So his fellow Marines did it for him. The fact that Geas did not have his earned medals also bothered them.
“I think that was criminal,” said Timothy Huff, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps League Lock City Detachment, who contacted U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., last year for help getting Geas’ his medals.
On Friday, Blumenthal presented the veteran with the Combat Action Ribbon, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four bronze campaign stars, World War II Victory Medal, and the Rifle Sharpshooter Badge.
“May God bless you,” Geas told the senator after he was presented with the honors.
“To participate in one of those battles would have made him a hero,” Blumenthal told the crowd. “He participated in four. He is a hero.”
Mayor David Martin also proclaimed Friday “John Geas Day” in the city. “I don’t know how to thank you,” the mayor told him.
“The thought that all these years have gone by and he hasn’t been recognized for four very long grueling years — well he’s delighted,” said Geas’ daughter Christine Efstathiades.
“We’re very happy to call him our father,” added another daughter, Pam Nanos.
Geas said he didn’t do anything looking for recognition. “I’m just happy that I served my country and came back unscathed and made a lot of friends,” he said.