It was a long time coming.
The first four pews in a center aisle at Highland Park Baptist Church were reserved and festooned with red, white and blue bows as friends and family gathered to honor a man whose service more a half-century ago should never be forgotten.
Officials from the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) were on hand to present World War II veteran Roby Quesinberry with a Bronze Star Medal for “exemplary conduct in ground combat against armed enemy forces in the European theater.”
The Bronze Star Medal is the fourth-highest military combat award available. It was established by Executive Order to recognize the achievements of members of the armed forces who distinguished themselves in battle after Dec. 7, 1941.
Quesinberry served in the U.S. Army from March 1942 until September 1944, serving in France, Germany and Normandy.
Carlyle Whitaker, commander of local VFW Post 2019, noted the day had special meaning for Quesinberry, who has been active in the post for 70 years.
“Unfortunately, many World War II veterans are passing on due to age, and we felt that since it would be his 94th birthday, it would be a great time to present him with this much-deserved honor,” he said.
In presenting the award, local post member David Rayburn couldn’t help but become emotional.
“This is in recognition of your sacrifice and leadership as a member of the Greatest Generation,” he said, voice cracking. “In fighting to preserve our society, you demonstrated both peace and dignity during a time of war. Your achievements will not be forgotten.”
Rayburn then read a letter to Quesinberry from his nephew, North Carolina National Guard Brigadier General John A. Byrd.
“You always demonstrated to me the quiet dignity and honor of the Greatest Generation,” Byrd wrote, thanking him for his example.
For Whitaker, the honor is highly deserved.
“It’s an honor for the service he provided not only to our country, but for our community and our state,” he said. “(Quesinberry) is an example of what people should aspire to, service to the country, respect for others and just the way he has lived his life.”
As for Quesinberry, a man of few words, the presentation made his birthday even more special.
“It’s certainly unusual for me to get something like this on my birthday,” he said with a laugh. “And it’s certainly an honor, but I should have gotten this 50 years ago.”
Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.