-- Udoff, Irv. The Bunker Hill Story. Turner Publishing Company,1994
Note that Morther's Day 1945 was actually May 13. May 11 is an error in the book.
My father was 26 years "young" when he was "buried at sea." His name is listed among the "Halls of the Missing," in "Punchbowl" National Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii.
Born in Masontown, Pennsylvania on November 14, 1918, to Susan Danko and Michael Cervenak, he spent most of his life in New Salem, Pennsylvania. In 1941 he married Stella Ochociensky and they moved to Cleveland, Ohio where he worked as a tool and die maker until he was drafted.
His military career was short. It began with reporting for training at USNTC GREAT LAKES, Illinois on May 23, 1944; to NA Technical Training Center, Norman, Oklahoma on December 8, 1944; to CARRIER AIRCRAFT SERVICE UNIT SEVEN, NAS Seattle, Washington in December, 1944; and aboard the U.S.S. BUNKER HILL (CV 17) on December 30, 1944. He served on the BUNKER HILL as an Aviation Ordnanceman.
In addition to his wife and daughter, my father was survived by his brother Thomas J. (Tim) of Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Tim served as an Army Air Force Aerial Gunner in the South Pacific, 1942-45. He was awarded the Air Medal and a Soldier's Medal for Valor. Tim passed away in 2017 at the age of 96. His sister, Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Bailey of Milwaukee, Wisconsin died in 2001 at the age of 77.
His father Michael died in 1953. Prior to her death in 1982, his mother Susan was an active member of, and served as, President of the Fayette County (Pennsylvania) Gold Star Mothers. She also organized, and served as the first President of, the American Legion Auxiliary, Unit 753, New Salem, Pennsylvania. My mother, Stella Cervenak Medlen is also a past President of the American Legion Auxiliary, Unit 753, and a former active member of the Gold Star Wives. I am very appreciative of the patriotism I experienced, in my family, and in our small town while growing up. I still "well up" at the sight of The Flag. I was the town's "token war orphan" and participated in many memorial ceremonies and parades.
I never got to know my father, and he hardly got to know me. I was two and a half years old when we last saw each other. I have only one or two "snapshot" memories of him that I think are genuine. I do, vividly, remember the day that my mother received "The Telegram." At the time of delivery, we were in my grandparent's yard taking photos to send to "daddy". My mother became hysterical, and neighbors took me to their house and tried to distract me with ice cream. Even the ice cream could not divert my attention from the sound of my mother wailing across the street.
My father wrote to my mother, and me, every day. I have these letters and I treasure them. His letters introduce me to a young man who was sweet and loving and sensitive, with a very strong desire to make his family proud, and to be at home with them. This was not to be. He made the "supreme sacrifice," and so did his family.
My mother did not remarry until I was an adult. I craved a father and a family. I always fantasized that my father actually survived the war, had amnesia, and was living on an island in the South Pacific. Surely he would come for me soon!
I am thankful that my family kept my father's memory alive for me, and I am very grateful for this organization. I never had an opportunity to really "grieve" until I attended my first AWON meeting, Veterans Day weekend, 1996 in Washington, D.C. At this meeting I was given the opportunity to share feelings I never knew I had, with others like me. I love my newfound brothers and sisters. We are family!