By CBSNewYork Team

BAYONNE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – One of the most highly decorated soldiers of World War II was honored Thursday in Hudson County.

CBS2’s Meg Baker was in Bayonne with his family and local leaders.

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A bronze statue of 2nd Lt. Stephen R. Gregg was unveiled Thursday in the park that bears his name. Local leaders call it a symbol of hope and courage.

“They will look up at this sculpture of the great Stephen R. Gregg standing tall, looking out on Kennedy Boulevard, protecting his park as he did our country in World War II,” said Hudson County Commissioner Kenneth Kopacz.

(credit: CBS2)

The Polish immigrant and Bayonne native received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with cluster, the Purple Heart with cluster, the Combat Infantry Badge and the French Croix de Guerre among his many honors during service in North Africa, Italy and France. He was also awarded France’s highest military honor – the Legion of Honor.

Lt. Gregg passed away in 2005. His son Stephen Jr. says his father was a humble man.

“So who was my father? An ordinary man who did something stupendous,” Stephen Gregg, Jr. said.

Lt. Gregg is credited for saving the lives of seven men.

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“They were diverted to Montélimar because the German forces were entering France, and the 36th division was moved in an attempt to stop them,” his son said.

He provided cover with the gun portrayed on the statue for a medic evacuating wounded men. Gregg was briefly captured by German soldiers, but escaped and returned to battle, performing more heroics.

The sculptor says he hopes his creation inspires others to live selflessly.

“Stephen Gregg once said we are just ordinary men who didn’t go out to earn this. It was just the spirit of the moment that called upon you to do things,” said sculptor J. Brett Grill.

No matter the consequences, the statue of Gregg shows his eyes on the horizon, looking forward to a better future.

Local leaders said it was important to commission the artwork to tell rich stories of our nation’s past.

Gregg met his wife after coming home from the war; Bayonne threw a parade just for him. She spotted him and said, “That is the man I am going to marry.”

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CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report. 

CBSNewYork Team