TAUNTON — Before Ramo Riva went to his daughter’s retirement party his family suggested he wear his uniform, from when he served in the Air Force years ago, in honor of Flag Day.
Little did Riva know that he was being set up for a surprise that was long overdue.
Wednesday night Master Sgt. Riva, 94 years old and a longtime Taunton resident, was finally awarded three medals he had never gotten for his service during World War II more than 70 years ago.
“We are very proud of him,” said Brenda Ruggiero, a fifth-grade teacher at Friedman Middle School and Riva’s daughter. “He deserved (the medals) and he finally got them.”
Riva served in the Air Force from 1941 to 1945 and was stationed in England during World War II. Riva was responsible for the maintenance of a dozen B-24 bombers and also headed up a team of more than two dozen aircraft mechanics.
“He graduated from Taunton High School in 1940 and enlisted right after,” Ruggiero said.
When Riva was honorably discharged in October 1945, he was given three awards, a Good Conduct medal, American Defense medal and Service ribbon.
But he deserved more.
Each year, in honor of Memorial Day, Riva speaks at Friedman Middle School.
“He plays an active role in telling kids about the dedication and sacrifice of military personnel,” said Robert Perry, a teacher in the Taunton School District and U.S. Air Force colonel, who served during the early 1990s.
Ruggiero recruited the help of Perry to find out if there were more awards that her father should have been given during his years of service for their country.
“Many Americans served in the military during WWII,” Perry said. “At the time, many of those people just wanted to put the war behind them and just go home. I think there were probably a lot of people that didn’t receive all the medals they should have.”
After a lot of research, time and effort Perry found that Riva did indeed qualify for some medals that he had never received — the American Campaign medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal and the WWII Victory medal.
Perry and Ruggiero were going to make sure Riva got what he deserved.
Wednesday night, during Ruggiero’s retirement party at the Segregansett Country Club, Riva came dressed in his uniform not knowing the honor that awaited him.
“They earn the medals,” Perry said about veterans. “And people should be aware they earned them.”
During the party Perry called Riva up, and although he had served in the Air Force 71 years ago, he finally got the rest of his medals.
“He is a hard worker,” Ruggiero said. “Maximum effort is something he learned from the Air Force and he exemplifies that in everything he did.”
“I hope for him this closes out a chapter that in the way back of his brain may still have been open,” Perry said. “He deserved this.”