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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Martin J. Pesmark Family Receives Purple Heart

Issue Date: August 22, 2019

The late Martin J. Pesmark, long time Peshtigo resident, posthumously received a Purple Heart in a ceremony on Monday, Aug. 19. It was 74 years after his discharge from the U.S. Army. He was wounded on Sept. 27, 1943 while stationed in Italy. It was presented to his daughter, Kathleen Heim and son, Richard Pesmark.

In late 2018, Richard Pesmark requested at the Veterans Service Office in Marinette that his father be awarded the Purple Heart. He received word on March 25, 2019 that his entitlement will be awarded. Richard Pesmark praised Holly Gajeski at the Marinette Veterans Service Office for all of her help. She went above and beyond to find missing information.

At the presentation ceremony at the Marinette County Court House on Aug. 19, Representative Mike Gallagher spoke about Martin Pesmark. He said the following:

"On June 10, 1942 Martin J. Pesmark enlisted into the United States Army out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Over the course of his service, he rose to the rank of Private First Class.

"Deployed on active duty to North Africa on Feb. 8, 1943, Martin arrived in Casablanca as a member of Company L, 30th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. The 3rd Infantry participated in the Tunisia campaign and the invasion of Sicily over the course of Martin's service.

"In the spring of 1943, the Allies were conducting a two-pronged attack against the German position in Tunisia. Buoyed from their victory over Rommel at El Alamein the preceding fall, British forces pushed northwest into Tunisia from Libya, while a second Allied column pushed east from Algeria. In April, the 3rd Infantry moved eastward from Casablanca towards the faltering German line. After a series of hard-fought contests, the besieged Axis forces surrendered in May, ending the German presence in North Africa and opening the door for the invasion of Sicily.

"The 3rd Infantry loaded onto transports for the 220-mile ride to the contested beaches of Sicily as part of Operation Husky. After nearly a month of battle, Allied forces liberated Sicily. The 3rd Infantry, along with British forces, then traveled north towards Salerno on the Italian Mainland. The Allies quickly secured the beachhead and the Germans retreated to Acerno.

"On Sept. 20, the Allies left camp to take Acerno. In order to push towards Acerno, Martin and the 3rd Infantry traveled through mountains as German troops had engaged in delay tactics by destroying bridges and placing artillery along roadways making them unsafe for travel. The following day Martin and Company L made their way up the mountain to neutralize the enemy escape route and gain access to the main road. On Sept. 22 at 0800, Martin and his company launched an attack on the German route facing enemy machine guns. During this attack, Martin's company faced an enemy counter attack, which they quickly defeated.

"Martin and his fellow troops attempted to fight forward but were held back by enemy mortar fire. During this battle for Acerno, on Sept. 23, 1943, Martin was wounded by enemy fire. As he was moving along the edge of a cliff near Acerno, a .88 tank shell exploded near him, immediately killing his brother-in-arms nearby. Martin was blown off the cliff, falling nearly 15 feet, and he was left unconscious for minutes before regaining consciousness and crawling for cover. He sustained many injuries and a concussion due to the blast and fall.

"A few days later on Sept. 27, U.S. Forces won the battle for Acerno, allowing them to continue their trek north towards Naples. Martin returned home on Nov 5, 1943 and was honorably discharged from the US Army on Jan. 22, 1944. Without the sacrifices of men like Martin the U.S. and the Allied victory would not have been possible.

"I am incredibly proud today to present this Purple Heart that Martin so courageously earned.

"Thank you to Tom and Holly from the Marinette County Veteran Service Office for being such a crucial part in helping get Martin awarded this Purple Heart.

"Thank you, Richard for your father's service. I hope this Purple Heart will remain in your family for generations to come and serve as an indelible reminder of the extraordinary service and sacrifices of Martin Pesmark."


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