Ohio veterans honored with long-overdue recognition
Norwalk Reflector, Ohio
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) honored six local veterans Wednesday at the Norwalk VFW Post 2743 with medals they should have received earlier. The veterans’ family members accepted the medals. Except for Ronald E. Dennison, of Norwalk, the following veterans are deceased: James Allen Jr. — U.S. Naval Reserves Donald L. Bahnsen — U.S. Army, Army Air Corps Dennison — U.S. Army, Marine Corps Richard A. Feaga — U.S. Army John D. Goostree — U.S. Army Frederick W. Sturgeon
— U.S. Army
U.S. Army and Marine Corps veteran Ronald E. Dennison and the local families of deceased veterans were honored Wednesday with several military honors they earned, but hadn’t received earlier.
Norwalk resident Pauline Ruby’s first husband, Frederick W. Sturgeon, was honored 68 years after he was killed in action. Ruby and her oldest daughter, Julia Price, of Galion, received four medals from U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) at the Norwalk VFW Post 2743.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” said Ruby, who moved to Norwalk in 1951 with her second husband, William.
“When I got Fred’s items (after his death), it was all in a box,” she said about a small, thin container.
Sturgeon was killed in action March 29, 1945 — nine days after he turned 26. Ruby, who married Sturgeon in June 1941, was pregnant with their second daughter at the time.
But before Sturgeon was killed, he had the chance to meet and hold Price, his first daughter. Price held a photo with her mother and herself in her father’s arms when she and her mother received Sturgeon’s four medals, which included the Purple Heart.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” said Price, who earlier heard about her father via “stories from Mom.”
Sturgeon is buried in a military cemetery in Lorraine, France.
With “so much going on” at the time, his widow didn’t attend his funeral. Ruby said it was easier to have her husband buried overseas.
“His mother was very ill. I was pregnant,” Ruby said.
Brown’s staff worked with the National Personnel Records Center and Army to track down the long overdue medals. (For a complete list of honorees, see the sidebar above.)
Brown said the process to get the military records is complicated because many times, veterans didn’t keep their paperwork and there was a fire many years ago in the St. Louis facility that housed some of the documents.
Dennison, of Norwalk, said it means a lot to be honored while he’s alive. He enlisted in the Army in March 1984 before transferring to the Marines several years later.
An ammunition specialist with the Army, Dennison said he took care of everything “from the little bullet to the big nuke.”
“I am ecstatic and very proud,” said his wife of 18 years, Gina. “I think this was a great thing that Sherrod Brown did for everybody.”
Brown’s father served in the Army overseas during World War II. Like many of the people interviewed Wednesday by the Reflector, Brown said his father didn’t talk about his military experience.
After he and his brother wondered about their father’s service, they inquired about what medals he might have received.
Ohio veterans and the family members of deceased veterans may request military records and medals by calling Brown’s Cleveland office at (216) 522-7272 or by visiting the “constituent services” section of Brown’s website at brown.senate.gov.
Dick Carlisle, the Huron County Veterans Services officer for the last 25 years, said he’s pleased each of the local veterans have received “the tangible appreciation from the branch of service in which they served.”
Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan called it a “double honor” to be involved in the appreciation program Wednesday since his father is a U.S. Air Force veteran.
The mayor said nearly everyone has been touched by someone who served in the military. The husband of Duncan’s administrative secretary, Michelle Sweet, was killed in a military plane crash.
“It’s something that touched all our lives,” Duncan said, referring to military service in general.
‘They deserve the medals’
“Each of these veterans served their country in order to procure our freedom and spread peace across the world,” said Brown, the cochairman of the Senate Air Force Caucus and a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
“They deserve the medals they earned for their bravery, honor, and selflessness when they answered the call to duty. It is because of veterans like them that we are able to enjoy the liberties we have today.”
Jason Feaga, of Norwalk, and his sister, Tracy Kowalski, had a similar experience as Brown since their father didn’t talk about his time with the Army. Richard A. Feaga, who died July 13, 1989, enlisted in 1943 and left as a staff sergeant in 1945.
“I like it because he wasn’t drafted; he volunteered,” Jason Feaga said.
“We knew he was in the service, but he never talked about it. He never told stories,” he said.
Richard Feaga, who was born in Sandusky, was honored with nine medals, including the Bronze Star, a sharpshooter badge with rifle bar and a marksman badge with a machine gun bar. His children didn’t learn much about his service until they discovered some newspaper clippings that shared how their father’s leadership allowed his comrades to survive being ambushed under what Brown called “close enemy fire.”
“He was very humble. He did his job because that’s what he did,” said Kowalski, Feaga’s daughter.
Norwalk resident Judith Berner received a World War II Victory Medal and three more medals on behalf of her late father, Donald L. Bahnsen. He served in the Air Corps.
“He was the pilot of a B-24,” Berner said.
Bahnsen is credited with saving his crew when his plane was shot down behind enemy lines in Hungary about 1943 or 1944.
“I don’t know if it was traumatic or not, but he never talked about it,” his daughter said.
“Dad never talked about this. It’s a part of his history we can connect with,” Berner added.
Just as Brown finished Wednesday’s program, the senator encouraged the families to have veterans talk about their experiences.