More than 60 years later, World War II Soldier awarded Purple Heart posthumously
March 30, 2010
FORT RILEY, Kan. - In July 1947, a "young" retired Master Sgt. Marion "Don" DeShon watched his fiancAfA, Shirrel, walk down the St. Mary's Chapel aisle in a beautiful white gown.
Fast forward 62 years later to March 26, 2010. Surrounded by family and Soldiers with the 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Mrs. DeShon could be found standing in front of the same altar, accepting a Purple Heart in honor of her late husband, who died just one year ago.
"In 1947, I never thought I would be standing at that altar doing it again, but there I was ... it's an end to a long journey," stated the emotional, but happy DeShon, proud of her husband, who was awarded the Purple Heart for his actions during the Allied invasion of France during World War II.
Landing on Utah Beach on June 6, 1944, DeShon fought through the hedge rows of Normandy, as well as on the Cherbourg Peninsula with the men of the 4th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt.
From 1944 to 1945, he continued to drive across France and Germany with his unit while participating in campaigns like the Hurtgen Forest, the Battle of Remagen and the Battle of the Bulge.
DeShon said receiving the Purple Heart in the same chapel she and her husband were married in would have been the biggest honor for her husband.
"He's up there. I know he's up there," she said smiling, positive that her husband would be proud to have her accept the honor on his behalf.
Receiving the Purple Heart was no easy task, however. Though DeShon was wounded four times during the Battle of the Bulge and was among the thousands of others who were wounded throughout the unit's charge across France and Germany, DeShon was never awarded the medal.
"I express sincere regret that it has taken 62 years to find this Purple Heart for your husband and father's service," Lt. Col. Matthew VanWagenen, commander of the 4th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt., 1st HBCT, told DeShon and her family. VanWagenen said many medals were lost during World War II and many Soldiers didn't receive the medals they had earned.
"There were so many people in the theater of operations at that time, paperwork was so cumbersome and so many people left theater right after D-Day and returned to the United States. A lot of stuff just got lost," he said.
It was only through the persistence of the DeShon family that they were able to receive the award.
After first searching the archives in St. Louis, Mo., for the appropriate evidence and being told by one congressman there were no papers stating the late DeShon was ever wounded, a final push by the family and a helpful hand from Senator Mark Udall brought fruition to the family's search.
In return for the Purple Heart, DeShon and her family presented two quilts, complete with the unit's shield and name, to the 4th Cav. Regt., along with a framed grouping of pictures featuring Don DeShon during his deployments.
VanWagenen plans to have the framed pictures hung in the unit's hallways.
"That is a big honor ... I'm not prejudiced, but I bet he'll be the best looking sergeant hanging in that room," DeShon said with a smile.
Don DeShon's valor did not stop after World War II. He continued to serve in Austria and at Fort Riley, as well as in the Far East with service in Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, Okinawa and Germany before being honorably discharged in June of 1955.
Other awards and decorations bestowed upon DeShon include the Presidential Unit Citation, the Army Good Conduct Medal with bronze clasp, the American Campaign Medal, the European-African-Middle Easter Campaign Medal with Silver Star and Arrowhead (Normandy invasion) device, the World War Two Victory Medal, the World War Two Army of Occupation Service Medal with Bronze Clasp, the National Defense Service Medal and the French Croix De Guerre with Silver Star.