WWII Veteran Receives Medals for Service
By Michelle Garrett, Church News staff writer
It was long overdue, but World War II U.S. Army veteran Lewis Frongner finally received the medals he earned during his service in the Philippines more than 60 years ago.
Brother Frongner, a member of the Stoddard Ward, Morgan Utah North Stake, claims he never did anything anyone else wouldn’t have done, but, nevertheless, he earned eight medals, including the Bronze Star, during his service as a mortar crewman in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater of Operations.
In his hurry to catch the boat home at the end of his 20-month service, he left behind his duffel bag that contained the few medals he had actually received. About 3,000 men were forced to leave behind their belongings as well—otherwise they would have had to wait another three or four months to go home to the United States.
That’s why, when U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) presented the 92-year-old veteran with his well-deserved medals on January 17, Brother Frongner’s daughter, Lou Jean Thompson, said her father felt a little embarrassed. There were many other veterans who had never received their medals either.
Stephen Frongner, a nephew, said his uncle has only recently started talking about his service in the war. One day, Lewis Frongner showed his nephew his discharge papers and Stephen noticed the papers listed several medals his uncle had earned. When Stephen asked if he could see the medals, his uncle said he had never received them.
Stephen decided to write a letter to Senator Hatch to draw attention to the medals Uncle Lewis had never received, resulting in the award ceremony with the senator.
Brother Frongner’s family attended the event, with the exception of his wife, Alberta, who wasn’t able to make it because of her health. Randy Frongner, his son, came from Wyoming to attend. Randy sat next to his father while Senator Hatch presented the medals, and Randy pinned the Bronze Star Medal to his father’s lapel.
“Lewis is a member of a select group of individuals—getting fewer and fewer in number—the veterans of World War II,” Senator Hatch said at the ceremony held in his Utah office. “Many have called them the greatest generation for the sacrifices and dedication displayed by so many men and women who wore our nation’s uniform.”
Senator Hatch said America’s freedom has been made possible only because of its veterans. He mentioned that his own brother was killed while serving in World War II, and that has made his family excited to support veterans who were willing to give everything for their country.
Lewis Frongner, a World War II veteran, wears his Bronze Star Medal after receiving numerous military medals during a ceremony in Salt Lake City, Thursday, January 17, 2013. The medals, including the Bronze Star, are those he should have received for his service in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. At left is Senator Orrin Hatch. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.
“I’m speechless,” Brother Frongner said, when asked for comments. A small, quiet man, he said he was overwhelmed by the whole thing.
Sister Thompson said when she was a child her father mentioned his service in the war only when he told them to clean their plates because he’d seen children in the Philippines so starved they ate coffee grounds out of the garbage. In the last four or five years, she said, he has begun to tell his children about the miraculous situations where he was almost killed but his life was spared.
Brother Frongner said he knows for sure that there were many times during his service in the war when he was helped, when he saw the Lord protecting him.
He was originally deferred from serving in the war, Sister Thompson said, because he was taking care of his parents who were both deaf. Later, he decided he wanted to serve anyway. Sister Thompson said after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, her father said if he could, he would volunteer to defend his country again.
Sister Thompson said her father, robust for his age, still wakes up early and shovels his own snow. Doctors are amazed at how healthy he is and will parade him around their offices telling everyone, “This man is 92!”
Lewis and Alberta Frongner married in 1944, shortly after his return home. On their bedroom wall hangs the only belonging, besides the clothes on his back, that made it home with him from the Philippines—the picture of Alberta that he always carried with him.
Lewis Frongner has his Bronze Star Medal pinned on by his son Randy Frongner, right, with Senator Orrin Hatch at left, during a ceremony in Salt Lake City, Thursday, January 17, 2013. Frongner received several medals for his service in World War II. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.