In the News

Rep. Frankel presents Bronze Star, two others to ex-cannoneer, 88

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Boynton Beach, August 7, 2019 | comments
Written by Emily Sullivan, The Palm Beach Post

BOYNTON BEACH — Nearly seven decades after he was pulled to the Korean War’s front lines, a Boynton Beach-area vet who frequented the battlefield and took a bullet to the shin claimed three medals for his service.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, extended the medals, one for national defense, one for United Nations service and a third signifying Korean War service with a Bronze Star, to Gerald Camen, 88, at his home Wednesday.

“It’s never too late to say ‘thank you’ and to award you what you deserve,” Frankel said, eyeing not only Camen but also a handful of Army men and veterans who joined him in a cluster of about 30. Camen said he had tried for a month to get his medals, sealing his gratitude to Frankel with a peck on the cheek.

Camen was 21 when he was drafted into the Army. An accounting student at Long Island University, he’d thought initially of joining the Air Force, he said. But when Army duty called in October 1951, he veered his attention toward training and mastering cannons of multiple sizes.

“It was a change in life for me, of course,” said the former cannoneer. “You do what you can.”

Camen was discharged from the military in July 1953, after a stretch of service that brought him three or four times yearly to the front lines. He witnessed the deaths of scores of individuals, calling wartime casualties “a shame” and “a waste of humanity.”

Camen recalled two close calls of his own, one in 1952 in which his tank almost slid down a North Korean mountainside. Another morning that year, Camen and others rose from sleep in a bunker to sit down to a breakfast of powdered eggs and bacon. Abruptly, fire from enemy forces ripped around their tent, spraying shells into a spot concealed between two hills.

One piece of shrapnel sliced into Camen’s left shin, he said. There is still a scar, perhaps an inch or so. But Camen thinks little of it.

“It’s a nothing,” he explained. “I was lucky.”

Living full-time in Boynton Beach since 1998, Camen is known to nearby residents as a good neighbor. He cut down on his golf and bowling games but said he still regularly walks 20 laps around his pool and stays active in the community.

Those who stuffed his home Wednesday shook his hand warmly and congratulated him on his achievements.

One of the decorated vet’s two daughters, Vicki, shared a similar sentiment.

“I’m just proud that there was this opportunity for him to be recognized,” said Vicki Camen. “Nobody likes to put their life out there.”

She and her father shuffled around the home once the crowd had cleared, Camen’s medals and an encased American flag displayed proudly on the kitchen counter.

“A lot went on, you know, there in the service,” he said. “But that’s war.”

 
 
 
 
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