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LIVING WITH HONOR

Silent influence from 'body of steel' guides family

Duane Dewey, Korean War-era Medal of Honor recipient, speaks with Stars and Stripes during the Congressional Medal of Honor Society's 2012 convention in Honolulu. Dewey smothered a grenade during the war, saving the life of a medic who had been attending to his prior wounds.

Like most small children of combat veterans, Arline Broome never heard much about the war from her father.

All she knew was that he had some something special from Korea that she could show off.

The Medal of Honor “was never a big deal in our household,” Broome said about the award earned by her father, former Marine Cpl. Duane Dewey.

“It was just one of those things,” Broome said. “I can remember bringing the kids in and pulling the medal out of the drawer and saying, ‘Look at what my dad’s got.’ But none of us had a clue what it was.”

Dewey joined the Marine Corps at 19 and found himself deployed near Panmunjom, where the Demilitarized Zone now separates the two Koreas.

On April 16, 1952, a Chinese battalion-sized force came upon Dewey’s dug-in, but vastly outnumbered, Company E platoon.

After being forced out into open ground, Dewey fired his machine gun at the enemy until he ran perilously low on rounds, according to his Medal of Honor Society biography.

When he ran for more ammunition, a grenade exploded at his feet, leaving him bleeding heavily.

A medic rushed to his side and began patching him up when another grenade landed next to them both.

Dewey briefly considered throwing it back, but time was short.

“Hit the dirt, Doc,” Dewey said.

Dewey smothered the grenade. His body flew several inches upward as the blast shredded his hip.

The medic survived without a scratch.

Dewey was carried to an aid station full of other casualties, where he waited an hour for treatment. After reinforcements relieved Dewey’s unit, he was taken to a field hospital, where doctors found that he had also been shot in the stomach.

Dewey spent a month in Japan and three more months in U.S. hospitals recovering from his wounds. When he returned home to South Haven, Mich., he received the telegram notifying him of his medal selection. He became the first recipient of Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency in 1953.

“[Eisenhower] said I must have a body of steel,” Dewey said.

Dewey received accolades and even a fully furnished, prefabricated house from his neighbors.

The fanfare soon faded, which suited him. The lack of recognition of what became known as “The Forgotten War” did not.

Decades later, Dewey attended a gathering that honored veterans, where they listed the number of servicemembers missing in action in Vietnam and other American conflicts.

“They missed Korea,” Dewey said. “They had over 8,000 still missing.”

Dewey attended occasional events, but generally kept recognition to a minimum – until the Internet age, which he said has transformed his life.

“I get stuff to autograph from all over the world now,” Dewey said. “Back then, not a lot of people knew much about us and the other recipients.”

In October, Broome attended a Medal of Honor convention with her father for the first time. She has watched the award change from something gawked at by children, to something barely recognized by her high school classmates – and again, years later, into an honor that garners widespread respect.

Most importantly for Broome, her father’s medal inspired her two sons. They each enlisted out of high school, one in the Navy and the other in the Marines.

“I’m sure that was all because of my dad’s influence,” Broome said.

slavin.erik@stripes.com
Twitter: @eslavin_stripes

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