A Pasco man who survived front-line combat in World War II’s Battle of the Bulge received honors Tuesday during a ceremony to retire worn American flags in downtown Kennewick.
Maurice Schmidli, 91, who manned a .30-caliber water-cooled machine gun, was stationed along the southern flanks of the Bulge in 1944. More than 1 million troops fought on either side of the bloodiest wintertime battle of the war and more than 76,000 Americans were killed, wounded or captured.
Schmidli has lived in the Mid-Columbia since 1956. He shared his battlefield story with the Herald in 2004: “I was just trying to live another hour, another day and another week.”
He received a plaque for his service at the Centennial Flag Plaza ceremony sponsored by the Historic Downtown Kennewick Partnership.
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“I’m overwhelmed. I’m just an old veteran trying to do the right thing, like I did then,” Schmidli said.
Skip Novakovich, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, organized a similar ceremony about 15 years ago and decided to resurrect it because over the years people have been bringing him tattered flags.
“I’ve got three 55-gallon drums full of flags,” he said.
Novakovich, who owns Esprit Graphic Communications in downtown Kennewick, handed out information about flag etiquette and why old flags are burned.
“These flags are the most visible symbol of our country … and it’s important to retire flags properly once they’re worn,” said Novakovich, who likens proper flag disposal to a funeral.
Burning the flag provides honor and respect for America’s star-spangled banner and provides proper “retirement for a great symbol,” he said.
▪ Read story about Schmidli’s wartime experience at tricityherald.com.
▪ Watch videos about flag etiquette and how descendants of a World War II prisoner searched for a flag that was waved when the camp was liberated.