94-year-old war veteran finally gets medals

Photo by Lesley Hughes
Pfc. Hobert Peters was honored Wednesday with the presentation and pinning of the medals he earned while fighting in World War II. Peters, 94, is one of the oldest soldiers to receive medals so long after being honorably discharged.

By Lesley Hughes
star staff
lhughes@starhq.com

  The best things come to those who wait. Just ask Hobert Peters, 94, who received his military medals that he earned 60 years ago while serving in World War II.
  On Wednesday, Peters was surprised at LifeCare Center of Elizabethton when a celebration was planned just for him to get his medals pinned on his original green Army jacket that he wore home when he returned from the war. Sara Sellers, Commissioner for the American Battle Monuments Commission, and her husband, Mike, and family members have worked together since July to present the "rightfully earned" decorations.
  Mike Sellers announced to the audience, "Pursuant to War Department General Order Number 33/45, Private First Class Peters was awarded the following decorations for gallantry and heroism while engaged in enemy action in the European Theater of Operations and is hereby decorated as ordered: European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Silver Star and three Bronze Stars and Arrowhead, World War II Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Driver and Mechanic Badge with Driver T-bar, and Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII."
  Pfc. Peters was inducted into the Army on May 4, 1942 and was immediately sent overseas. He received his basic training on ship. While in Europe, Peters was engaged in the Normandy Invasion and went on to serve in Central Europe, Southern France, Rhineland, Rome-Arno, Naples-Foggia, Sicily, Tunesia, and Algeria-French Morocco. He was also chosen as driver for the Commander, Third U.S. Army, Lt. Gen. George S. Patton.
  State Rep. Jerome Cochran described Peters as "part of the greatest generation." He added, "He is to be commended and he represents the best of Carter County. We are just very proud to have him."
  His cousin, Gebe Ritchie, and other family members have been instrumental in helping to secure Peters' Honorable Discharge papers that were necessary for receiving the medals.
  Ritchie said, "It tickles us all to death for him to get to see them; you know, him being 94 years. This is something that he should have had 60 years ago. We are all proud of him.
  "He was 31 years old when he was drafted. He went in on one end of Europe and out into Africa, all the way across WWII. He was with the combat engineers building bridges for the rest of the Army to come behind and fight," Ritchie said.
  "It was an honor for him to go through all that and not get injured and especially to be able to drive Gen. Patton around. He is highly, highly decorated, but you would have never known it," he said, referring to Peters' modesty and quiet attitude about events in the war.
  Ritchie told the story of how odd it was for him to survive so much war without injury, only to be involved in a plane crash during his trip back into Camp Pendleberry, Indiana.
  "They went to land and the landing gear wouldn't come down on the plane. They had to make a crash landing. He about got killed getting on American soil. He used to tell me there were drops of sweat on him 'that big', Ritchie said, gesturing the size of a dime with his hands. "He always said there was a higher power looking after him."
  Peters had three family members at the ceremony: Jimmy Smith, a cousin from Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Betty Sue Fletcher, a niece from Stoney Creek, and Ritchie, who is also his cousin.
  He has lived at LifeCare Center for the past two years. Up until that time, he took care of himself, until weakness in his legs left him unable to live alone.