BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — The American Legion will honor World War II combat veteran and retired veterans agent Perley Roderick Jr. tonight with its fifth annual Americanism Award.
Roderick, 93, is a retired 30-year town employee who, as veterans agent, made sure the graves of fallen soldiers, even those dating back to the Revolution and the French and Indian War, were marked with bronze plaques.
American Legion Adjutant Bruce Eaton said Roderick fit the criteria for the award, which included being wounded in combat in Italy during World War II and working with veterans as the veterans agent.
“While there (working as the veterans agent), he took a keen interest in finding veterans’ graves way back to the French and Indian War,” Eaton said. Roderick worked to find and document those forgotten graves in out-of-the-way cemeteries.
“Once he located them, he proceeded to request the veterans bronze plaques and had them installed,” Eaton said.
In an interview yesterday at his home on Maple Street, Roderick said he became familiar with these graves in remote graveyards when he marked them for Veterans Day.
“I spotted a lot of these markers, some broken in half and some pulled out of the ground,” he said.
A decorated veteran, Roderick served as an infantryman with the 5th Army, 473rd Infantry.
“Between Sicily, Italy and Africa, I got around a little bit,” he said.
Roderick, who enlisted in November 1942, was awarded the European-African-Middle East Theater Medal; the Bronze Star; a Purple Heart after being wounded in La Spezia, Italy, in 1945; a Good Conduct Medal; and a World War II Victory Medal. He also received the Army of Occupation Medal. He was honorably discharged in 1945.
He keeps the medals framed and hung on the wall in his living room. Alongside them is an award from the Daughters of the American Revolution for the work he did during his civilian career with the town of Danvers.
Roderick said he was wounded by shrapnel on one of the Army’s many attempts to take Mount Belvedere in Italy.
“I got hit in my arm and my leg,” he said.
Roderick served as the veterans agent for 11 years. In all, he said he located and marked 110 graves of Revolutionary War and Civil War veterans.
He is also credited with ferreting out several nearly forgotten cemeteries in remote parts of town, including those where the remains of some early patriots are buried.
Roderick started working for the town in 1955 in equipment and maintenance for the highway department, according to town records. By 1967, he was the head mechanic and in 1969 was promoted to equipment superintendent.
He was named assistant veterans agent in 1974, and three years later took over as director of veterans services and employment assistance. He took on additional duties of the parking clerk in 1981 before retiring in 1985.
Tonight’s ceremony had been postponed by snow earlier this month. The public is invited to attend the 7 p.m. ceremony during the American Legion Post 180 meeting at the VFW Hall, 5 Conant St.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.