70 years after his brave act saved others, Retired Marine Corporal receives Silver Star

Updated: Mar. 17, 2021 at 6:11 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Nearly 70 years after a Sarasota man served his country honorably, he will be getting a long awaited honor for his bravery and action in combat.

But this special moment almost didn’t happen for Marine Cpl. Salvatore Naimo, as the tale of his bravery got lost among so many others who made sacrifices.

It was Sept. 14, 1951, Naimo and his company sat high atop a hill in the mountains of Korea when an enemy forces began a barrage of artillery fire. Grenades and mortar fire rained down. Despite the bombardment, Naimo left his secure position to help two wounded Marines, both of whom were gravely injured.

“They were so seriously wounded, that when I carried them out of the bunker they could hardly talk. And the first one I carried out...another mortar hit close by and we landed on the ground and I thought I was going to hurt him more and in the meantime I was wounded myself. When I took him back to the medic, where he was treated and I was treated at the same time... and then I went back and got the second guy,” Naimo explains.

With further reflection, Naimo added, “I’m only sorry that I don’t know what happened to the two men I saved out of the bunker.”

It wasn’t until the chaos subsided that Naimo realized what he had done.

“My platoon Lieutenant came out and he says to me ‘oh my God. You did one hell of a job.’ I says, I don’t know what you’re talking about. So he went out and counted 36 dead enemy troops, so he says ‘I’m going to recommend you for a medal.’ I didn’t pay any attention to that…I was just lucky to be alive.” Naimo recalled.

That same platoon leader would sadly be killed in action two days later. Naimo’s Company Commander Colonel Bruce Meyers would recommend him later for the Navy Cross.

Since the original nomination, most of the witnesses of that brave act would pass away.

But that’s where Col. Robert Crawford steps in to the story. He volunteers his time securing medals and awards for overlooked deserving veterans. Crawford came across Naimo’s story. He’s been working to make it a reality since 2018.

“Like a lot of marines…I don’t quit. And I got it done. Between the newspaper articles that were written and the two shows you had on channel 7 some progress was made,” Col. Crawford told ABC7′s Jacqueline Matter. “I talked with a lot of people to get this thing moving, get it from the bottom of the pile to the top. Congressmen, senators, whatever. Somehow we got it unlogged. I don’t know if it was bullets or brains that got it done…but we got it done.”

While the medal isn’t the original award that Meyers suggested, the Silver Star is the third highest Military honor for Valor in Combat.

Col. John Polidoros, Chief of Staff for Marine Corps Forces Central Command, was the one to pin the medal on Naimo’s chest.

“It means a lot to recognize one of our own. It doesn’t matter if it’s today, ten years ago, twenty years ago, seventy years ago…we always want to make sure our marines are recognized for the performance they did,” said Polidaro.

Naimo beamed with pride as he finally received the reward for his act of bravery, never to be forgotten.

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