Tony Cizina was a B-29 navigator during World War II. He says before he joined the military, he had never traveled more than a few states away from home.
“I’ve seen islands growing out of the ocean. We met the jet stream, nobody knew about it then. And we got caught in it where the plane wouldn’t even fly, it just stood there. And we thought it was a secret weapon. And the enormous raids that we had on Japan and I believe our plane was the only one that made all the missions without being aborted.”
That fact is what made Cizina eligible for the Distinguished Flying Cross, among other medals. But when he returned stateside, some of his belongings were stolen, including the paperwork to file for the medals.
Just this year, his long-time neighbor Cay Fornier made the discovery about his combat service.
“One day I just happened to find out he was a navigator on a B-29. He never told me about anything else. And then he fell in March and was in the hospital and we were just sitting there talking, my son and I, we were just listening to the war stories and he kind of mentioned that he never got his medals. So anyway, I contacted John Cornyn’s office and wrote a letter to him and it’s been a chain of events because of that.”
Senator Cornyn’s office researched Cizina’s war record and obtained the medals, five of them in all. Brigadier General Henry Osterman presented them to Cizina at the retirement center where he lives.
“That’s the entire group of awards for you. The most distinguished award presented this morning to Mr. Cizina is the Distinguished Flying Cross. This award is presented for actions above and beyond the call of duty, heroic actions, while engaged in aerial combat.”
“I never expected all this attention. All I wanted to do is see the award, or touch it, and now I’ve got it and it’s very beautiful.”
Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.