A true hero

Lo­cal vet­eran hon­ored for ser­vice in Iwo Jima

The Phoenix - - FRONT PAGE - ByMar­ian Den­nis mden­nis@pottsmerc.com @Mar­i­anDen­nis1 on Twit­ter

“I told him, ‘I love you and you al­ways were my hero,’ and he started to cry.” Mary Lou Oswald of Bech­tels- ville was brought to tears re­mem­ber­ing how her fa­ther, Louis Rit­tel­mann, was re­cently hon­ored for his ser­vice as a Marine in Iwo Jima dur­ing World War II.

Rit­tel­man, 94, for­merly of Boy­er­town, was just 19 years old

when he en­listed in the Marine Corps in 1942. He went to Par­ris Is­land for boot camp and was then shipped to Iwo Jima where he saw com­bat for 36 days. The con­flict he wit­nessed in 1945 left over 6,000 Amer­i­cans dead and over 19,000 wounded. Af­ter what he even­tu­ally de­scribed to his fam­ily as “hell on Earth” Rit­tel­mann wit­nessed the rais­ing of the Amer­i­can flag fol­low­ing the de­feat of the Ja­panese.

“My dad didn’t re­ally talk about his time at Iwo Jima un­til lately,” ex­plained Oswald. “To this day he has night­mares about fight­ing the Ja­panese. He tosses and turns at night.”

His sac­ri­fice, while no small feat, went un­rec­og­nized for 70 years, ac­cord­ing to Oswald. Which is ex­actly why a Sept. 25 cer­e­mony hon­or­ing his ser­vice brought those in at­ten­dance to tears.

Rit­tel­mann cur­rently re­sides at Phoenixville Care and Re­hab Cen­ter, 833 Main St., Phoenixville. The cen­ter usu­ally holds cer­e­monies for new clients that are vet­er­ans where they present them with a cer­tifi­cate from the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives thank­ing them for their ser­vice. In the process of plan­ning the cer­e­mony, Oswald said, he got an even more un­ex­pected honor.

“My hus­band’s best friend was a his­tory teacher at Boy­er­town Ju­nior High West and he’s kind of a bat­tle­field buff. He went to a con­ven­tion in Get­tys­burg and met a 3-star gen­eral and he started telling him aboutmy dad,” Oswald said. “The gen­eral sent my dad a pic­ture of him in his uni­form and a beau­ti­ful let­ter about his ser­vice and thank­ing him for it. My dad was thrilled to get it from a 3-star gen­eral. He has it with him at the nurs­ing home. Ev­ery time I would go over to visit he would look at the pic­ture and say he’d just love to meet him.”

Oswald then reached out to Lt. Gen. Richard Mills to see if he would be will­ing to Skype with her fa­ther.

“We didn’t think he’d be able to come. We asked if he could Skype be­cause he lives in Quan­tico. The gen­eral wrote back that it was not too far and that he would come. Bless his heart. He’s so won­der­ful,” said Oswald.

The cer­e­mony be­gan with a singing of the na­tional an­them, at which time, Rit­tel­mann stood fromhis wheel­chair to salute.

Mills then awarded Rit­tel­mann with a Marine Ser­vice pin and gave him a sculp­ture of sol­diers rais­ing the flag at Iwo Jima.

“I was very emo­tional. The gen­eral said that it’s very rare that he gets to give a pin to a hero and that he’s a true hero,” Oswald ex­plained. “Af­ter he got the pin and ev­ery­thing, every­one went by to of­fer con­grat­u­la­tions. I hugged him and I cried. Af­ter all th­ese years he fi­nally got the recog­ni­tion he de­served.”

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Lt. Gen­eral Richard P. Mills greets World War II vet­eran Louis Rit­tel­mann who was hon­ored for his ser­vice dur­ing a cer­e­mony at Phoenixville Care and Re­hab Cen­ter on Sept. 25, 2017.

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Fam­ily and staff stand dur­ing play­ing of Marine Corps hymn at cer­e­mony hon­or­ing World War II vet­eran Louis Rit­tel­mann at Phoenixville Care and Re­hab Cen­ter on Sept. 25, 2017.

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Lt. Gen­eral Richard P. Mills fas­tens a pin onto World War II vet­eran Louis Rit­tel­mann dur­ing cer­e­mony at Phoenixville Care and Re­hab Cen­ter Sept. 25, 2017.

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

World War II vet­eran Louis Rit­tel­mann speaks with his daugh­ter, Mary Lou Oswald, af­ter cer­e­mony hon­or­ing him for his ser­vice.

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

World War II vet­eran Louis Rit­tel­mann dur­ing cer­e­mony at Phoenixville Care and Re­hab Cen­ter on Sept. 25, 2017, hon­or­ing him for his ser­vice.

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