Walter Filipek of Sam’s Fork off Route 60 in Hurricane was one of several decorated veterans who were honored in the annual St. Albans Veterans Parade on Saturday, November 6.
Filipek’s medals include a Purple Heart with one Gold Star and the Bronze Star which awarded for his heroism during the 89-day campaign in which the United States Marines wrested Okinawa from Japan in 1945. He was wounded by shrapnel twice, once in May and again in June.
During an assault upon the enemy position, his squad leader was wounded and separated from the platoon. When Filipek learned that the squad leader remained in the enemy field of fire, he did what Marines do. He went after and returned with his fallen leader. In the course of the rescue, Filipek single-handedly knocked out the enemy machine gun nest that had his unit pinned down.
Following the war, Filipek returned to Sam’s Fork and found employment with Union Carbide in South Charleston. He did not claim his combat medals until after his retirement from Carbide with 29 years service. “The biggest problem that I had in getting my medals was proving that I was still alive,” he joked.
Four years ago, Filipek was honored when the eastbound Route 60 bridge over Coal River was officially named the “U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Walter Filipek Memorial Bridge.”
At age 96, he was the oldest veteran honored on Saturday. Filipek was also a guest of honor on Saturday at a Marine Corps gathering at the Marriott in Charleston.