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World War II Veteran of “Ski Patrol” Honored for Service
Written by Bradley Schlegel Correspondent

Members of American Legion Post 244 Sanatoga, Cal Miller and Billy Worrell, fold the American flag for presentation to Schertel as he looks on during the ceremony Monday in Hereford Township.

                Leo Giangiacomo heard his uncle's war stories on a loop growing up.  Living on the family farm on Niantic Road, near Bally, he said Alphonsus Schertel talked most about his military service in the morning during cow milking.

                On Monday, Giangiacomo, who hadn't listened to the tales of bravery and courage for more than 30 years, heard the story of Schertel's World War II exploits read aloud.

                During a ceremony at the Forevever Green Farm in Hereford, organized by the Bayada Hospice and hosted by the Masemore family, Schertel was honored for his extraordinary service with the U.S. Army.  "He is a hero," said Giangiacomo, a petroleum engineer who lives in Casper, Wyoming. "He was like a father to me."

                Seated between Giangiacomo and Margaret Masemore, his niece and primary caregiver, Schertel, 92, listened as Christa Weyant, a spiritual counselor at Bayada, a home health care entity with an office in Boyertown, and his great niece Maria Masemore shared the highlights of his time as a machine gunner in the 85th Mountain Infantry Regiment of the 10th Armored Division, known as the Ski Patrol.

                The division, which entered combat on January 28, 1945 in the North Apennine Mountains of Italy, completely destroyed five elite German divisions, according to information posted on the Army's website.  It states the unit's casualties included 992 killed in action and 4,154 wounded in 114 days of combat.

                Fighting the Nazis on skis in the mountains of Italy, Sgt. Alphonsus Schertel earned a Bronze Star for bravery on April 14, 1945 near Mount Della Spe after his squad leader was killed.

                Schertel, who learned to ski while training at Camp Hale in Colorado, said keeping his balance was the toughest part.  "We fought in three feet of snow," Schertel said through the prepared statement. "I never killed anybody, so far as I know. I shot at the Germans' feet so they would run away.   God took care of us the whole time I was there. I did not get hurt."

                    The statement included his recollection of carrying a fellow solider, shot in the head, several miles to safety.   "I just did my duty," Schertel said after the ceremony.

                       One of six children, Schertel – who quit school after eighth grade and joined the Army on June 1, 1943 - helped prevent the Vatican from falling into German hands. He also captured a gun five railroad cars long, and said advice from his captain to not set up his machine gun saved his life.

                Schertel's knowledge of the Pennsylvania-German dialect enable him to serve as a translator for German prisoners on many occasions.

                Pa. Senator Bob Mensch (24th) was on hand to congratulate Schertel and present him with a proclamation from the Senate honoring the service of the World War II member of the "Ski Patrol."

                As part of the ceremony, PFC Meghan Lyman presented Schertel with a service pin.  Members of the American Legion Post 244 presented Schertel with a U.S. flag and honored him with a gun salute after which taps was sounded to honor all veterans. 

                A voracious reader who moved in with the Masemore family a few years ago after suffering a broken hip, Schertel talks often about his military service, according to Margaret Masemore.  "I always felt better when telling the stories," Schertel said after the ceremony.

                The stories caught the attention of various Bayada team members, according to director Angie Snyder. So she said they decided to record the stories from their client.  "The staff members were surprised how outgoing Al is," Snyder said.

                So last month, Weyant and Rachel Bailey of Bayada visited Schertel at the farm.  According to Weyant, they spent approximately two hours interacting with the veteran.  Weyant asked the questions, with an occasional prompt from Maria Masemore, while Bailey recorded the responses.  "He touched the heart of everyone on my staff," Snyder said.

                Beautiful weather and the bucolic setting at a local, family farm provided a perfect setting where family and friends could gathered to say "thank you" to a World War II veteran. 

                Norman Rockwell couldn't have planned it better.





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