LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Monday marked 79 years since the attack on United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, which inspired a generation of young men and women to serve their country. One of them was retired Army Lt. Armand Sedgeley, 99, of Lakewood. Now, an effort is underway to get him a military honor for his heroism in the war before it's too late.
In the months following the U.S. entry into World War II, Sedgeley enlisted.
He became a bombardier, flying in dozens of combat missions overseas. But one of those missions stands out among the rest. It was Valentine’s Day 1944, and Sedgeley was aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress off the coast of Italy. The bomber was under attack by enemy fighters.
“The tail gunner, the two waist gunners and the radio operator were all killed,” said Sedgeley, who spoke to Denver7 on FaceTime from his Lakewood assisted living facility.
Sedgeley is now 99 years old.
He has told the story of that mission countless times, but rarely calls attention to his heroic actions — shooting down the enemy. After that, Sedgley and another crew member ditched the disabled bomber in the ocean. It immediately sank.
Nearly 50 years later, marine biologist John Christopher Fine entered the story. In 1992, Fine was diving around the wreckage of the bomber, when he found a dog tag, the identification tag worn by military personnel. He was immediately excited about the possibility of tracking down survivors of the crash.
Fine soon made contact with Sedgeley and another member of the crew. He helped arrange for them to visit the island of Corsica for a remembrance ceremony in 1995. But Fine’s work wasn’t done.
“One day, (Sedgeley) related how he never got his Silver Star, how other members in that same mission had received their Silver Stars,” said Fine.
Fine began a new mission: to get Sedgley the Silver Star he deserved.
He didn’t realize how difficult that would be.
Despite tracking down records of Sedgeley’s service, and letters from U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and South Dakota’s governor, the military has rejected Sedgeley’s request. Fine is worried Sedgeley will pass away before his medal comes.
“At 99 years old, it’s a miracle that Sedgeley has a clear mind, memory and a wonderful sense of humor, however his body is not keeping up,” said Fine.
Sedgeley said even after all these years, it would be an honor to receive the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest honor.
"I think it’s something that my family would cherish," he said.