Albany, NY – On Memorial Day, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), joined by Congressman Paul Tonko, paid tribute to the service of two World War II veterans by securing posthumous medals for their families in Albany. Senator Gillibrand honored a daughter’s wish to secure war medals in memory of her father, the late Vincent Muraski, and an Albany soldier Robert O’Brien’s dying wish to obtain medals to pass onto his grandchildren. Standing at Michael’s Banquet House, the Senator presented the war medals, including the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart, to the Muraski family and five medals to the O’Brien family.
Senator Gillibrand said, “We must never forget our brave men and women who risked their lives to protect and defend our freedom. Today, we honor Vincent Muraski and Robert O’Brien, who were courageous combat veterans, fathers, grandfathers, and lifelong New Yorkers. These medals pay tribute to their extraordinary service to our country and their commitment to the families that carry on their legacies for generations come. I am thrilled to be able to fulfill their families’ wishes.”
Deborah Morgiewicz, daughter of Vincent Muraski, said, “It wasn’t until much later that I realized the extent of my father’s heroism and the incredible service he had dedicated to our nation. I wish I had understood more when I was younger. I thank Senator Gillibrand for helping me uncover this history and for honoring my father. I really appreciate all that she has done.”
O’Brien family said, “It means so much to us that Senator Gillibrand obtained these war medals. They are incredibly valuable to our family and will be passed on to our children and grandchildren.”
Senator Gillibrand presented the following medals, which includes the highest military honors, to the Muraski family in honor of Vincent Muraski:
- Silver Star & Oak Leaf Cluster Bronze Large
- Bronze Star Medal & Oak Leaf Cluster Bronze Large
- Purple Heart
- Good Conduct Army Medal
- President Unit Citation
- American Campaign Medal
- European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal & Bronze Star Attachment
- World War II Victory Medal
- Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award
- French Fourragere
- Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII
- Expert Badge & Carbine Bar
- Marksman Badge & Machine Gun Bar & Rifle Bar
After her father’s death in 2009, Deborah Morgiewicz, who volunteers at Albany airport’s military courtesy room, wanted to obtain her father’s war medals in his memory. She reached out to Senator Gillibrand’s office in March 2011.
In March 1943, Albany native Vincent Muraski enlisted in the war and became a staff sergeant in the famed 79th division, 315th infantry. The World War II veteran was awarded the highest Army honors for his bravery and heroism. In November 1944, Staff Sergeant Muraski used anti-tank grenades to singlehandedly stop a group of German counter-attacks at Epinal Hill in Southern France. Originally designed to stop tanks, Muraski fired his weapon from a grenade launcher attached to an M-1. His brave action disbanded dozens of Germans and merited him the Silver Star.
The Albany soldier, who oversaw a machine gun and heavy weapons squad, was awarded a Bronze Star for his heroism in the Normandy, Northern France, and the Rhineland Campaigns. His daughter Deborah recalled that during the Normandy invasion, the veteran carried his friend who was unable to swim and pulled him to safety under heavy fire.
Staff Sergeant Muraski was also awarded the Purple Heart when he suffered flesh wounds to his shoulder and back from enemy bullets in the Rhineland Campaign at Hatton.
After his service, Sgt. Muraski returned to Albany and worked as a milk man at Normanskill Farm Dairy and later worked at the U.S. Postal Service in Latham. Muraski was an avid, talented golf player and even when he went blind at age 71, he continued to play golf with the Capital District Blind Golfers League. Muraski passed away after a long illness in March 2009. He was 88 years old. Muraski is survived by his daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sister, six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.
Senator Gillibrand presented the following medals to the O’Brien family in honor of Robert O’Brien:
- Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
- World War II Victory Medal
- New York State Conspicuous Service Cross
- New York State Conspicuous Star
- Good Conduct Army Medal
Robert O’Brien was diagnosed with late stage lung cancer in 2008. During hospital visits, the soldier would share stories with his grandchildren about his World War II service and recalled never having received the medals that he was awarded. In June 2010, Mr. O’Brien reached out to Senator Gillibrand’s office for help to secure the medals and requested them for two of his 16 year-old grandchildren. Mr. O’Brien passed away in August 2010.
Mr. O’Brien grew up in the Bronx and attended St. Joseph’s Church. After graduating from the Bronx’s DeWitt Clinton High School, Mr. O’Brien served in World War II starting in 1944 until the end of the war, where his travels included China, Burma and India. Mr. O’Brien served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Forces and as a radar operator aboard B-29 bombers during combat missions.
After service, the veteran returned to New York City, attended Manhattan College, and worked as an accountant until 1968. In 1974, he moved to Albany and opened a chiropractic office.
His wife Barbara, 85, also grew up in the Bronx. She met Mr. O’Brien on a blind date and they married in 1953. Mr. O’Brien is preceded by his wife and his four daughters who reside in Albany County, one son in New Hampshire, and eleven grandchildren who are in New York.