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WWII vet Ed Reiff finally collects overdue honors

Presentation six decades in the making

Posted: November 11, 2009 4:51 p.m.
Updated: November 12, 2009 8:00 a.m.

Reserve Sgt. Leo McSweeney (left) recently helped out with presentation of long-overdue military medals to his friend, 1st Marine Division Sgt. Ed Reiff (right), in Calabasas.

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Ed Reiff, a Marine veteran of World War II, expected his Oct. 8 evening to turn out to be like most family dinners at the home of his son, Morrie. Instead, he was surprised when he received the long-overdue war medals awarded to him for his service to the country more than 60 years ago.

Morrie Reiff's Calabasas home was filled with family, friends, fellow Marines and veterans as his father was presented six medals from his two tours of duty during World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters.

Reiff, only 17 when he joined the Marines in February 1942, was one of only three members of his 40-man squadron in the fierce fighting on Guadalcanal to return to U.S. soil at the end of the war. He was discharged in November 1945.

There really was no reason that he did not get his medals of honor," said Marcia Davis, Reiff's daughter and a 26-year Santa Clarita resident. "At 85 years old, his mortality put things into perspective, and I believe he wanted to put what he did in the war and that period of his life into that perspective."

Davis, an instructional assistant at Saugus High School, helped obtain the medals through the Marines and organize the surprise presentation.

"About a year ago as my dad was getting a little more sensitive to his honors and what it meant to him serving," Davis said. "The whole process of inquiring and obtaining the service medals took around 10 months."

A co-worker in the high school's career services department helped put Davis in contact with Lance Cpl. Max Bernstein, a Marine working in the Santa Clarita Recruiting Office who volunteered to make an official presentation.

Bernstein presented the medals to Reiff in a glass and wood case with a formal declaration thanking the veteran for his sacrifice on behalf of the country. Among the medals were a bronze star commemorating his service in the Asian Pacific, a World War II victory medal and an honorable discharge pin.

Other service members attending the presentation included 41-year-old Reserve Sgt. Leo McSweeney, a friend of Reiff's for the past decade, who drove up from Camp Pendleton. McSweeeny also brought two other Marines, both due to ship out to the Middle East soon. Three days after visiting Reiff, McSweeney embarked to Afghanistan on his fifth tour of duty.

"(McSweeney) took (her dad) under his wing, invited him to Marine events and took him to training sessions down at Camp Pendleton," Davis said. "My dad became this WWII veteran honoree the Marines who were training there could look up to. We also very much keep an eye out for (McSweeney), because he is like another son to my father."

It may have taken some time to obtain his full accolades from a previous period in his life, but Reiff doesn't show any signs of checking out anytime soon. He still commutes every weekday to his son's financial planning business in Calabasas from the same home in North Hollywood where he raised his children.

"My dad loved the honors and I loved making this event happen," Davis said. "This kind of occasion shows what this community is capable of doing together."

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