More than seven decades after he served in World War II, a 92-year-old Bergen County native who served as a local police chief for 23 years received the medals he earned for his service in Okinawa.
Thomas Simpson received his medals Monday at the Sunrise of Old Tappan assisted living facility – where lives with his wife of 70 years, Dorothy -- from U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer.
There was the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the Honorable Reserve Discharge Button and the Ruptured Duck Honorable Service Lapel Pin.
The Congressman also gave Simpson an American flag that he had flown over the U.S. capital in Washington, DC in his honor.
“I’m grateful to him and to all those who served our great country.”
Gottheimer said. “It was an honor to hear his story.”
Simpson was a 17-year-old Bergenfield High School graduate when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy.
As a Cook Third Class in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater, he helped deliver food and supplies aboard an amphibious landing craft during the biggest war in history.
"My skipper woke me up one morning at five o'clock and said 'can you make coffee?' “ Simpson told ABC7 Eyewitness News. “I said 'yes sir.'
“He said 'You're the cook.”
Simpson later worked as a mail carrier in Bergenfield before launching a career in law enforcement.
He joined the River Vale Police Department in 1955 and served for 37 years – including a record 23 years as chief.
The medals weren’t on his mind until his grandson asked about them. Simpson turned to Old Tappan Mayor John Kramer, who tapped Gottheimer.
The congressman said that he was able to “cut through red tape to secure the medals from the federal government,” which he gladly delivered on Monday.
Fewer than a half-million of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are still alive, Gottheimer noted.
“It is our duty as Americans not only to honor these men and women, but to do everything we can to fight for them when they return, to ensure they have the care they need, the benefits they were promised, and the support we all owe them,” he said.
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