WWII veteran Hal Schrage honored for service to country during special ceremony at Milestone Oct. 18
By Jed Buelow
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor, Sports, Nature Editor
The history books share what Navy veteran Hal Schrage, 93, doesn’t like to recount from his time serving aboard the USS Bowie during World War II.
One could only imagine the number of lives the vessel saved as it brought on the injured after dropping off troops to serve during the Battle of Okinawa and other major offenses that the USS Bowie was involved in during the Pacific theatre.
Schrage’s longtime friend and neighbor Don Schultz said by the time the vessel rolled into the Philadelphia shipping yard at the conclusion of the war it was pretty much sent for scrap due to the war-torn condition it was in.
The Haskell-class attack transport vessel used to transport troops to and from combat areas had seen plenty of action after taking part in the first major offensive against the Empire of Japan at the Battle of Guadalcanal the ended in a hard-fought victory for the Allied forces on Feb. 9, 1943. The boat had also taken part in the Battle of Leyte, the largest naval battle of the war, and earned a Battle Star for putting troops ashore during the battle at Okinawa.
Turning 94-years young on Nov. 29, Schrage was among those serving aboard the USS Bowie during WWII. A large crowd gathered at Milestone Senior Living Friday, Oct. 18 as Schrage was recognized by Hospice Chaplain Mark Ames out of the Rhinelander office for his years of service from 1943 to 1946.
“Thank you Hal for your service,” Ames said in thanking Schrage’s family as well for their sacrifice made during the war. “Thank you for everything you have done to keep us safe and to protect freedom and liberty all around the world.”
As part of the ceremony attended by many at the assisted living facility as well as his family and friends from the Wurl-Feind-Ingman VFW Post 2687, Chaplain Ames presented Schrage with a certificate of appreciation to go along with a Navy cap and a lapel pin recognizing him for his years of service.
VFW commander Jerry Dvorak described Hal as his “right-hand man” for many years in helping the VFW with different projects the organization has been involved in.
“He went through a lot,” Dvorak said of Schrage’s time in the Navy and added the gang at the VFW has been very appreciative of all his efforts. “We love him a lot. He’s a really great guy.”
Schrage nearly completely lost all his hearing during the war as he served as loader on an anti-aircraft gun. The disability did not defy his post-war achievements, as Schrage went on to become a professor in social work.
And to this day the Aurora University School of Social Work awards the “Harold F. Schrage” Award to a pair of individuals who provide “exemplary service to the field of social work.” The university partners with more than 350 agencies and schools in Illinois and 30 agencies and schools in Wisconsin.
Hal didn’t want to reflect back on his time in the war during a ceremony held to recognize his years of service during WWII. But the history books tell us of a man who served his country and went on to impact so many lives for the better that continues to this day.
An American Hero – even if you will not hear it from him.