By Anne Eickstadt

Mark Finnegan, founder of VetsRoll holds a birthday banner for this 101-year-old World War II Veteran.

“This young man, my dad, turns 101 on Thursday, Feb. 10,” said Charlotte Kennedy. “Happy birthday, dad. We love you to the moon and back. His heroism inspired me to start Sgt. P’s Lapghans for Veterans, whereby 4,383 veterans and active duty military personnel received complimentary lapghans (blankets).”

“On Sunday, Feb. 13, we celebrated the 101st birthday of World War II Army Sergeant Walter ‘Wally’ Petroske of Poplar Grove.

“This incredibly healthy man served in the 9th Armored Division through Germany and Central Europe, including the Ardennes, the Rhineland, and he is a decorated hero of the Battle of the Bulge, serving as a demolition specialist,” said Mark Finnegan, founder of VetsRoll.

“Following the Battle of the Bulge, while under heavy enemy attack on March 26, 1945, Wally earned a Merit of Recognition by disarming explosives under the Remagen Bridge, allowing the Allied troops to march across the Rhine River and into the heart of Germany … the beginning of the end for the Nazis.

“It was a surprise to Wally, but we held a victory parade for him in Poplar Grove. Staging was at 1:15 p.m. at the Village Hall, 200 N. Hill St. The parade stepped off at 2 p.m. with an Illinois State Patrol, Boone County Sheriff, and Boone County Fire Department escorts.”

The VFW Honor Guard offered a 21-gun salute. The public was encouraged to show their patriotic spirit with flags and signs and falling in behind the escorts. Cards could be dropped in a container in front of Wally’s home.

“We pray that Wally stays healthy, because he is now on his third year of waiting to join us on the VetsRoll trip to DC.

“Happy 101st Birthday to a true American hero!”

“I was really surprised. I didn’t expect this, Petroske said. “This really means a lot to me. I really cherish this.”

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