Last October, Dad and I sent a copy of his World War II Honorable Discharge papers and a letter to the National Personnel Records Center requesting that he be sent two medals that he had earned but never received. Since the government was in shutdown mode at that time, I doubted that he would get a response. Oh, me of little faith. Though official records in the NPRC facilities were lost to a fire, Dad’s medals were verified and shipped because of the information we sent them. And, not only did they send the WWII Victory Medal and the Army of Occupation Medal–Japan, they sent a Sharpshooter Badge with Rifle bar and an Honorable Service lapel pin.
The bronze WWII Victory Medal depicts the Liberty figure resting her right foot on a helmet with the hilt of a broken sword in her right hand and the broken blade in her left hand. The reverse contains the words, Freedom from Fear and Want, Freedom of Speech and Religion and United States of America 1941–1945. The red center stripe of the ribbon is symbolic of Mars, the God of War, representing both courage and fortitude. The twin rainbow stripes allude to the peace following a storm.
The bronze Army of Occupation Medal with a bronze Japan clasp depicts the Remagen Bridge. On the reverse is Mount Fujiyama, two Japanese junks, and the date, 1945. The black stripe on the ribbon represents Germany, and the red strip represents Japan.
Using his country-boy hunting skills, Dad earned the Sharpshooter Badge (silver, nickel, and rhodium), a cross pattée with the representation of a target in the center. Descending from the badge is the Rifle bar representing the weapon he used to earn the badge.
The gilt brass Honorable Service lapel pin, sometimes called the ruptured duck, was awarded to those who were honorably discharged and was meant to be worn on civilian clothing. Unofficially, it was also used as an identifier to railroad, bus, and other transportation companies who offered expedited transportation to veterans returning home.
Did Dad finally getting his medals restore my faith in US government efficiency? Not exactly. The medals were awarded in 1947, but it took sixty-six years and a letter from an 85-year-old veteran in 2013 for them to be sent. But it was gratifying to see Dad get tangible, official recognition. As Dad posed with his medals for my brother Tim’s camera, he jokingly asked if he was now a bona fide hero. I told him, no, we already knew that about him.
“I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those that do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.” ~Florence Nightingale