CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Harry Fruchtenicht knew when he started the process two years ago that he would receive one medal for his service in the Korean War.
He did not find out until Friday morning, when they were delivered by U.S. 1st Dist. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Waterloo, that he would receive five medals.
“I was kind of surprised I got more than one,” said Fruchtenicht, 84. “They look good.”
With the help of Braley’s office, Fruchtenicht received the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean War Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, Republic of Korea War Service Medal and the Navy Good Conduct medal.
While relatives joked he may not have deserved the last medal, Braley reminded the friends and family gathered that the actual records were lost in a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. The congressman joked that he could only assume all five medals were validly earned.
“This is very, very impressive,” Braley said. “I am so honored to be the one to be able to present these to you.”
Fruchtenicht’s tenure in the U.S. Navy Construction Battalion, or Seebees, was relatively short. A love of construction drew him to enlist in the Seebees in 1948. He came home for leave, when he was called back to help in the Korean War effort.
He said he can’t remember the accident that required back surgery, nor a multi-leg flight home. Fruchtenicht does remember the back surgery, though.
Fruchtenicht said he was awake for the surgery and that the hammering and scraping “makes you feel kind of funny.” He says now he has a “big hole in his back.”
In all, Fruchtenicht said he spent about a year in an Oakland, Calif., hospital recovering. After that, he worked in private construction and retired as an equipment operator for the county.
Today, he still does what he can to stay active. He helps his son Jerry and daughter-in-law Teri, who hosted the medal ceremony at their Cedar Falls, Iowa, home, around the house and with yard work.
The ceremony was a family affair. His four children Joni, Jill, Jerry and Jeffery all attended; his oldest daughter, Julie, is deceased. Fruchtenicht’s sister Mary also came, as did several friends and grandchildren.
“This is something else. Nothing like this ever happened to me before,” Fruchtenicht said.