ISLESFORD — Students from the Ashley Bryan School usually go to the Bar Harbor YMCA on Friday afternoons for their swimming lessons. But on Friday, May 2, they changed their schedule so they could return to Islesford on the 11 a.m. boat.

Morning talk among island lobster fishermen on the VHF radio was also about getting traps set or hauled early so they could come home, change clothes and get to the Islesford Neighborhood House by noon.

The occasion that brought almost 100 people from Islesford, Great Cranberry and several places off-island was a ceremony to award Richard A. Alley Sr. his Bronze Star and three other medals earned while he served in the 77th Infantry Division of the 307th Regiment of the of the U.S. Army during World War II.

At age 87, Alley had waited 69 years for this day.

Chris Rector and Claire Bridgeo from Sen. Angus King’s office congratulated Alley on the honor on behalf of the senator; King’s staff did the research that led to the award.

Peter Ogden, director of veteran’s affairs for Maine, described some of the combat in which Alley participated as a member of the 77th Infantry division. That group replaced the 96th division and made some 15 landings in infantry landing craft under heavy fire to secure Kerama Retto and Keise Shima for the attack on Okinawa. The 307th‘s motto, aptly enough, was “Clear the Way.”

“I remember it clearly,” Alley said after the ceremony. “Wave after wave of Japanese planes on a one-way trip, and Navy anti-aircraft trying to shoot them out of the sky. I’ve never been so scared.”

The medal’s accompanying certificate read:

“For meritorious achievement in active ground combat against the enemy on 16 June 1945 “¦ in support of the Statue of Liberty Division’s assault upon Okinawa. Private First Class Alley’s exemplary performance of duty in active ground combat was in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division and the Army of the United States.”

Alley’s Bronze Star medal was mounted in a shadowbox along with a Combat Infantryman Badge, a Presidential Unit Citation ribbon and an Asiatic Pacific Campaign medal that features three smaller bronze stars representing three campaigns.

It’s not uncommon for such honors to be delayed.

There were 16 million men and women in uniform during World War II. Alley became separated from his division after he contracted jaundice in the Philippines and was sent to a hospital for treatment. And in 1973, there was a fire at the National Archives and millions of military personnel files were lost.

But Alley knew he had earned the medals. A few years ago, Islesford Librarian Cindy Thomas contacted then-Sen. Olympia Snowe’s office for assistance and learned about the fire that destroyed the records.

Then, late last year Alley’s daughter-in- law Stefanie Alley ran into Rector, an old friend and asked him for King’s help. Staff happened to be going through a box of files containing Alley’s and other veterans’ records and within two weeks, the medal award was confirmed.

“I never dreamed it would be like this with so many people showing up,” Alley said of the ceremony.

As people approached to thank him for his service almost 70 years ago, Alley said there were others who never got the recognition they deserved, “especially Warren Fernald who served in the Navy, Harry Alley who served in the Army Artillary, and Clarence Beal and Paul Phippin who each served in the Marines. I wish more of them were still with us to be thanked.”