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In Brewer, 97-year-old WWII veteran finds closure

Perry Drew served in the United States Navy Armed Guard where he defended merchant ships in enemy territory.

BREWER, Maine — Perry Drew, 97, lives in the same home he built in 1954. He raised his children there. He survived WWII after being drafted in high school. He has also walked in every Memorial Day parade in Bangor.

As the years go on, Perry's willingness to tell war stories grows.

"His stories are just evolving now. We’ve never heard them growing up," said his daughter, Calla Burgess.

When speaking with NEWS CENTER Maine, Perry discussed when he was nearly killed by a mine while navigating Norwegian waters as United States Navy Armed Guard member.

"I told him, 'If I get killed, I want it to get done quick,'" Perry said. "I made 14 trips. I went to North Africa, Casablanca ... I went to Sicily. I went to Italy three times. I went to France [and] England."

Perry, some years go, revealed to his children that he never collected his service medals. 

"They told him, 'Would you like to go home, or would you like to stay to be formally discharged.' He went home,'" Tom Drew, Perry's son, said.  

His children said their father was too anxious to return home to Maine, so he took the first ticket offered home.

"And that's the way most of all of us felt. We just wanted to go home, settle down and live a normal life. And that's what I did," Perry said.

But after hearing the news, his son-in-law, David Burgess, started making calls to Republican Maine Sen. Susan Collins' office. 

The process was taking some time, and Perry was falling ill.

"When we found out my dad was on hospice and had pulmonary fibrosis, we brought medical records, and they expedited the medals for us," Calla said. "He did earn them, and it's something that can be passed down in the family now. We have closure now, getting his medals 77 years later."

"It's an honor. I appreciate it," Perry said. He added raising the awareness of the United States Navy Armed Guard was more important than the medals.

"There was a lot of good times and a lot of bad times, too," Perry said. "When you're in the war, stuff keeps coming back. You don't want it to, but that's the way it is. You just never forget these things."

The United States Navy Armed Guard was a naval division serving from World War One and later disbanded after World War Two. 

The United States Navy Armed Guard provided more than 144,000 servicemembers during WWII, with one of the highest casualty rates for divisions. More can be read on the disbanded group here.

"I wasn't even thinking of medals. I just wanted to get back to living a normal life," Perry said. "I had a wonderful wife, some great kids, and that's all I've ever asked for."

Perry participates in the Memorial Day parade in Bangor every year and hopes to make it to this year's event in May.

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