Jerry Okrina of David City passed away on Sunday [September 1, 2013], his son Jeff Okrina of Omaha reported to The Banner-Press on Wednesday.
In accordance with his father’s wishes, no funeral or memorial services were planned, Jeff Okrina said.
The son described the father as “a normal guy,” who enjoyed his social life immensely but never made much of his experiences from World War II.
Despite several brushes with death, Okrina lived a long and active life and was well known in Butler County.
The double Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient had survived critical injuries in World War II and a head-on car crash in 1963, which led to extensive reconstructive surgery, his son said.
In recent years he had recovered from heart valve replacement surgery, a serious staph infection and prostate cancer, but the cancer had returned and spread, his son said.
Okrina grew up in Abie and graduated from David City High School in 1941, holding several DCHS track sprinting records for 20 years. He played a year of football at the University of Nebraska and played baseball in the Pioneer Night League.
Recognizing that he would likely be drafted for military service, Okrina enlisted in the U.S. Marines.
Okrina was a platoon sergeant when he participated in several assault landings on Japanese-held islands, including Bougainville, Guam and Okinawa, in the Pacific. On Okinawa a bullet just missed his heart and passed through both lungs. His recovery took about five months he was sent home. He had already been in the service three years before he was wounded.
“I would have stayed, but I had a medical (discharge),” he told The Banner-Press in 2007.
The first Purple Heart and the Bronze Star came following the war, but in 2007, a second Purple Heart was awarded for a separate incident on Okinawa several days before Okrina was wounded.
Okrina was knocked unconscious by an artillery shell, but recovered to lead his platoon to a safe area before he was evacuated.
“His determination and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service,” his medal citation stated.
Okrina was on one of the Heartland Honor Flights in 2008 that transported World War II veterans to see the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.
“He got quite a charge out of that,” his son said.
Okrina operated the former David City Hatchery for three years. He was later a rural mail carrier for the U.S. Post Office for 27 years. He then sold insurance until giving up his agent’s license about three years ago.
Having taken up the game of golf about 1953, Okrina became well known in golf circles for his championship wins both on the David City course and in regional competitions. His son said Okrina had accumulated nine holes in one.
Along with his son, Okrina is survived by his wife Betty, his sister Georgia Okrina Caudle of Johnson City, Tenn., and nieces and nephews.
Okrina was born in Abie on Jan. 12, 1923. His parents were Charles and Frances Okrina.
In accordance with Jerry Okrina’s final wishes, his body was donated to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for research.
Friends gathered last January for a 90th birthday party. Read more about Okrina in this week’s Banner-Press.