Former veterans helping veterans with gift

Fulfilling the wishes of a couple who served in the U.S. military, representatives with the state and county Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organizations accepted a $100,000 check this week to help veterans with training and transportation.

On behalf of Lt. Col. Marie Bilyj and Col. Stephen Bilyj, Susan and Tom Stinebaugh presented the check Wednesday to state DAV Commander Michael Stith and State Adjustant Will Davis. Stinebaugh is a nephew of Marie Bilyj.

“This money will go to the service of veterans 100 percent — it will provide job training and help with the local filing of claims for service connected disabilities,” Stith said. “We have troops who fought during their service in six hospitals and this money will go for vans to transport these veterans. The vans are driven by volunteers.

“This donation here will get us at least a van if not two through a fund supported by the Ford Motor Co.,” he said.

Stinebaugh said the couple never forget their brethren they served with in the military.

“Although Stephen and Marie enjoyed their time together after the military, they never forgot the importance of God, country and their fellow men and women whom they served side-by-side with to protect our freedoms,” Stinebaugh said. “It is with humble hearts that their family carries out the Bilyj’s final wishes with this donation on their behalf to the Disabled American Veterans.”

Earlier this year, Stinebaugh presented a $100,000 check to the Wapakoneta Area Community Foundation to start a scholarship fund for high school students planning to earn a degree in nursing.

Stephen Bilyj joined the U.S. Army on July 25, 1946, and served during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam conflict. During his 30-year career, he held many offices and received numerous medals and commendations.

After retiring from the Army on April 27, 1970, he served in the Army National Guard for several years.

Marie Bilyj, who earned her nursing degree from St. Rita’s School of Nursing in Lima, enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the Korean War and the Vietnam conflict.

While serving overseas during the Korean War, Marie and Stephen Bilyj met and then later married in San Francisco in 1964. The couple continued to serve through the Korean War and the Vietnam conflict, Stinebaugh said, at times going months without seeing each other.

They visited or were stationed in many countries throughout their service including France, Germany, Korea, China, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam.

Both were award the Army’s medal of Commendation and Stephen Bilyj earned the Bronze Star.

After nearly 50 years in the service combined, the Bilyjs retired to Dover, New Hampshire, to be close to Stephen Bilyj’s mother. When Stephen Bilyj died in 1998, Marie Bilyj moved back to Wapakoneta to be close to her sisters and 23 nieces and nephews.

Marie Bilyj, who was born July 10, 1923, in Crawfordsville, Ind., the daughter of Clenna (Odle) and George Galloway, died Dec. 27, 2011, at Otterbein-Cridersville.