Gravesite Memorial held for WWII Veteran and Shoreline resident Joseph Mehelich

Sunday, April 23, 2023

21 gun salute for Joe Mehelich
By Doug Cerretti
Photos by Steven H. Robinson 
except as noted

World War II veteran Joseph (Joe) Peter Mehelich, a resident of Shoreline, WA passed away December 20, 2022 at the age of 99, three weeks shy of his 100th birthday. 

A gravesite memorial to honor Joe was held at Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery March 18, 2023 under the direction of Major General Ray Coffee, United States Volunteers-Joint Service Command (USV-JSC). 

Attendees from USV-JSC and Shoreline Fire Dept,
Station 65. Photo by Doug Cerretti
Participating in the ceremony were members of the Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) Funeral Honors team and the 50th MP BN (D) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8870 Rifle Honor Guard under command of Captain Frank Martinez.

In attendance were members of the Starr Sutherland, Jr Post 227 of The American Legion, members of USV-JSC, representatives from the Shoreline Fire Department, Station 65 (who mutually visited each other for years) and Joe’s daughters Marilyn Peck and Shirley Sell, grandchildren and great-children, additional family members, as well as friends and neighbors.

Artist Michael Reagan and Joe’s daughter Shirley Sell.
Pastor Tom Ruhlman and Major General Ray Coffey
in the background. Photo by Doug Cerretti
Pastor Tom Ruhlman from the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Shoreline, WA gave the eulogy followed by a 21-gun salute and a bugler sounding taps. 

The JBLM Funeral Honors team then made precisely 13 folds of the United State Flag (in remembrance of the original 13 colonies) as Major General Coffey read the meaning of each fold. 

Presentation of the Flag to Joe’s daughter Marilyn Peck
The team then presented the flag to Marilyn Peck. Captain Martinez presented Marilyn with three cartridges, one from each volley used during the 21-gun salute.

After the ceremony the JBLM Funeral Honors team stated that, “It was a privilege to conduct the flag presentation ceremony for this great man, we are all very grateful and honored to have been there.”

Joe was born January 11, 1923 in Montana on a rural farm with no running water or electricity. 

During the Great Depression Joe’s family did better than most as they could live off the land; Joe would trap rabbits and sell what the family did not need for $1 each. 

Joe Mehelich in WWII
Joe was drafted into the US Army in 1941. Little did he know that his combat experience would span almost the entire operation of the US Army in the western hemisphere. 

He started with General George Patton’s army in North Africa followed by the invasion of Sicily eventually ending up in Rome. 

He was then transferred to England where he was in the first wave at Omaha Beach on D-Day June 7, 1944

Only Joe and a couple of other soldiers survived from his landing craft. 

Joe rejoined Patton in the 3rd Army, breaking out of the D-Day beaches through France. 

He then participated in the Battle of the Bulge. Joe’s combat ended when he greeted the Russians at River Elbe signifying the end of the war.

The bugler playing "Taps"
Beginning at Omaha Beach, he was involved in 282 days of intense combat over a period from June 1944 through April 1945. 

Joe was a tank commander and medic and was on speaking terms with General Patton who would take in Joe’s advice and reports on tank operations in his sphere of influence. 

For his service to his country Joe received the Silver Star, Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. He received five stars on his Europe-Middle East-Africa campaign ribbon signifying the number of combat operations he participated in.

Portrait of Joe Mehelich by Michael Reagan
After a honorable discharge from the army, Joe moved with his parents to the Seattle area eventually getting a job with Pioneer Sand and Gravel and soon met and married Helen Bolstad in 1947. 

Joe lived most of his years in Shoreline, WA where he was a beloved member of the community. Joe and Helen had five children, 14 grand-children and 23 great-grandchildren. Helen passed away in 2016.

On a personal note, I had the honor to meet Joe last October when fellow American Legion member Larry Fischer invited me to join him in one of his frequent visits to his house. 

Joe mentioned how much respect he had for General Patton but little else of his wartime experiences. He probably did not want to remember all that he saw. 

Before Larry and I left, we told him we would be at his 100th Birthday Party. I was hoping to see Joe again.

Ceremonial folding of the flag

What kind of man was Joe?
He once came upon a German soldier on the battlefield lying wounded. He treated him and took him to a location where his fellow German soldiers would find him. The soldier asked Joe why he helped him and Joe said, “Because you needed help and I don’t hate you.”

Rest in Peace Joseph Peter Mehelich!

(Previous article on the occasion of Joe's 95th birthday)


Anonymous,  April 24, 2023 at 12:27 AM  

Thanks for your service soldier and my U RIP,Im sure U will be missed. LTC John D. Hosey

Anonymous,  August 18, 2023 at 2:59 AM  

Joseph P. Mehelich was a member of Co. B, 119th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division. He was awarded a Silver Star for his actions on Oct 3rd, 1944. The citation reads: Under the provisions of AR 600-45, 22 September 1943, and pursuant to authority contained in Memorandum Number 34, Headquarters Ninth United States Army, 8 September 1944, the Silver Star is awarded to Private Joseph P. Mehelich, Medical Department, United States Army, for gallantry in action on 3 October 1944, in Holland. Private Mehelich, a medical aid man, distinguished himself when his unit was pinned down in a woods by intense enemy artillery fire which caused many casualties. Although painfully wounded himself, Private Mehelich insisted on going to the aid of other casualties. Despite the fierce shell fire, he stumbled and crawled one hundred and fifty yards to a group of wounded men, and for three hours endured the fire while he took care of the needs of the injured men. Private Mehelich’s courage and self-sacrifice are well worthy of the highest praise.

A few details in this article need to be corrected:
D-Day was on June 6th, 1944 and not on the 7th! Mr. Mehelich didn't land on D-Day, the 30th Infantry Division followed roughly a week later. The 30th Infantry Division was never part of Patton's 3rd Army and Mr. Mehelich was never a tank commander.

A couple of years ago this website published an article about Mr. Mehelich that also contained several mistakes, see:

Mr. Mehelich never was a company commander. The picture of his shadow box is a good reflection of his heroic wartime service. The article also states that Mr. Mehelich entered the army at age 17, which isn't correct either. He enlisted in the Army on September 17th, 1943:

Mr. Mehelich was a heroic member of the 30th Infantry Division. The 30th Infantry Division was credited bij S.L.A. Marshall to be the best infantry division of the war.

The corrections above (there are more) are backed up by official paperwork of the US Army, morning reports, general orders etc.

Regards from the Netherlands

DKH October 1, 2023 at 2:44 AM  

To the researcher in the Netherlands: please send your contact information to Local researchers would like to discuss your comments with you.

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