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Legacy of Andrew J. Riley
By Polly Mazariegos


Editors Note: This story was originally published in the January 2006 issue of U.S. Legacies magazine. Since the author Pauline K. Mazariegos nee Wagaman passed away in April 20, 2015, we are republishing this article in her memory.

Here is Polly's story, in her own words.

I thought I would start with Andrew J. Rileys military career and how I became his daughter.

My biological father, Merle Wagaman, died during World War II. My Mother remarried Andrew J. Riley after 7 year of being a widow with 2 girls. I called my stepfather Andy. He fathered 7 children with my mother. When they are added, with my sister and I, from my biological father, this makes a nice group of 9 children.

When my other brothers and sisters arrived, I began calling Andy Dad. If I would have continued to call him Andy, then they would have also called him Andy instead of Dad, and it would be too confusing for them.He was the only Dad I knew, as I was only 9 months old when my biological father died in WWII. Andy was now my Dad.

Dad enlisted April 9, 1934, in the National Guard of PA. He first served in the 105th MRSec. 28th Div. QM TN. from April 9, 1934, through April 16, 1936. He was reassigned to Co. E 103 Quartermaster Regiment of the National Guard from April17, 1936, thru 1940, when he was honorably discharged on April 8, 1940.

He was granted the rank of Corporal on June 12, 1940. He joined the regular Army on December 1, 1942. His entry into active service was December 8, 1942. His occupation specialty was Radio Mechanic 862. He was honorably discharged from the Army on September 28, 1945, and held the rank of Corporal.

His enlisted campaigns are: Rome Mao per letter MPOUSA on November 10, 1944; N Apennines & Po Valley Campaigns. He received an EAME Campaign ribbon with three bronze stars, plus the good conduct medal. He also received one gold star for service from 1935-1939, while in Company E.

He later received a purple heart and obtained a certificate of disability for his many shrapnel wounds. These wounds stayed with him all his life as it continued to come out of his feet and neck until he passed away in 1988. In addition to his military service, he was a life time member of the Loyal Order of Moose in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Dad also had nightmares from his military service. Once Dad told my mother, don't move Teen (his name for her), there's a snake on the ceiling. He would also cry out orders to other soldiers in his sleep.

Dad would also tell us his numerous Army stories. If only we had recorded them then and paid more attention to them, we could list them here, but I will have to rely on my brothers and sisters for any stories they remember. The only story I remember is when Dad was in Africa and pigmies were paddling the boat, and a big sea serpent came out of the water and threw all of them into the water. Since they were not far from the bank, they all swam to safety.

Another story was where Dad was on a mission with a guy they called Machine Gun Kelly. We think he called him that because he carried the machine gun and his name was Kelly. Any how, their mission was to blow up this bridge and Dad was there as a radio operator. They set the charges and, as Charlie recalls, Machine Gun Kelly got killed with most of the guys on the mission. The bridge was blown, and it was off to the next mission.

Just to show Dad did have a sense of humor, here is another story. It goes like this. There was an air raid and they were in the mess hall. He jumped behind a trash can and cut his finger. The Army wanted to award him the purple heart for that. Dad said it is ridiculous and when the General came by walking his dog to give Dad his purple heart, Dad refused it. The General turned and put it on the dog collar and off they went.

Another story, as he had many, Dad was with the OSS the forerunner of the CIA. We did not really believe him until at his funeral and Charlie was standing next to his wife Marva, and this old guy came up and told me that Dad was responsible for getting him a position within the OSS. Charlie never did get his name.

I remember a time at the supper table when Dad would tell one of his Army War stories and my husband, who had been in the Army at Ft. Belvoir, VA, so Dad felt at ease telling him his stories. My husband would kick my foot if he thought what Dad was telling him was true, or not. We will never know for sure .I sure did have a sore foot though.