World War II Vet Honored On Father's Day
(July 3, 2009)
Col. Stephen Clark salutes Herman Wallace following the presentation of a Bronze Star Medal June 21, 2009 in Portales, N.M. In the center is Mr. Wallace's daughter, Linda Tripp, who pursued the forgotten award that recognized his service during World War II. Colonel Clark is the 27th Special Operations Command commander.
| ||CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (6/26/2009 - AFNS)|
It took the tenacity of a daughter, the insistence of a politician and the presence of 27th Special Operations Wing members here June 21 to properly recognize a World War II Soldier who sacrificed his leg in combat.
In a Father's Day ceremony in Portales, N.M., Col. Stephen Clark, the 27th SOW commander, presented Herman Wallace a Bronze Star in recognition of his service during World War II.
Col. Mark LaRose, the 27th Special Operations Maintenance Group commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Hector Baez, the 27th Special Operations Mission Support Group superintendent, walked through a side entrance of the Roosevelt County Electric Cooperative building to make the surprise presentation.
|"When I looked up and saw all those ribbons and rank, I didn't know what to expect," said Mr. Wallace who had been lured there by his daughter, Linda Wallace Tripp, on the premise that it was a Father's Day event and their extended family and friends would get together. Mr. Wallace, 84, who was born in Elida, N.M., and now lives near his daughter in Scottsdale, Ariz., agreed to make the trip. |
What Mrs. Tripp failed to mention to him was that she had been wading through red tape that included a fire that destroyed her father's military records in 1973 to get the recognition she felt he deserved. In Mr. Wallace's case, the Bronze Star was the result from his distinctive accomplishments he made as a rifleman. In 1947, the medal was authorized for those who had been awarded the Combat Infantry (now Infantryman) Badge. It was designed to honor the infantrymen who endured the greatest hardships. It was also authorized for the medics who accompanied them on the front lines.
Undaunted by old, lost and burnt paperwork, Mrs. Tripp enlisted the additional efforts of Sen. John Kyle who was successful at pushing it through. The senator forwarded the Bronze Star to Mr. Wallace through his daughter.
In a letter sent to Mr. Wallace June 8, Senator Kyle wrote, "It gives me great pleasure to forward to you the Bronze Star Medal you earned during World War II. Your contribution to the cause of freedom is deeply appreciated. "
A representative from the senator's office and Mrs. Tripp then contacted Cannon Air Force Base officials to convince the military members that their presence was necessary for the event. That, she later admitted, was the easiest part. She didn't know it, but both of the attending colonels had their own link to World War II through their fathers as well.
The eagles on Colonel Clark's epaulets were given to him by his father who had them made from the two silver dollars he had in his pocket when he marched into Paris during World War II. Colonel LaRose has his father's Bronze Star citation on the wall in his office, and because most of Mr. Wallace's paperwork had been lost in 1973, the verbiage for the award was reconstructed from Colonel LaRose's father's citation.
Chief Baez began the presentation with a reading of Mr. Wallace's unit, Company D of the 175th Infantry Regiment. He traced its roots from the American Revolution when it became known as the "Dandy Fifth" for its fancy dress uniforms, to Normandy, France, to its fight across Belgium and Germany.
Before he handed the Bronze Star to Mrs. Tripp to pin to her father's shirt, Colonel Clark reminded the audience of his service to his country as well as those of his generation.
"Mr. Wallace's service to our great nation is deeply appreciated," he said. "Today we have a well-deserved military medal to recognize his contributions to our nation."
Following the presentation, Colonel Clark saluted him, for his service.
Mr. Wallace was born in Tatum, N.M., on July 12, 1924. He graduated from Elida High School in May 1943 and was immediately drafted and then inducted into the Army 34 days before his 19th birthday.
Following basic training, Mr. Wallace landed on Omaha Beach in France, six days after D-Day. He moved with his unit through Belgium and finally into Aachen, Germany. It was there where shrapnel from an artillery round hit him Nov. 11, 1944. Soon after, his leg was amputated.
He was evacuated to England and when a military reporter interviewed him, Mr. Wallace asked that he not write of his amputation. Three months passed before he finally wrote home to tell his family of his situation. His daughter still has the letter and the first 14 lines, written in the neat penmanship of the day, recounted the letters and packages he had received from home.
It isn't until the second paragraph that he tells his father about his leg being amputated.
"Dad," he began, "I was going to wait until I got to the states ...but I think I should tell you my leg was shot up pretty badly. Now don't worry about this, because I am surely not."
He added that he felt thankful because there were so many who were not going to return home.
Mr. Wallace was fitted with a prosthetic leg, graduated with a degree in business administration, married, had two children and worked at the Rural Electric Cooperative in Portales.
His daughter said that through it all, he never complained about his lot in life and never let others around him complain either.
"When he was late to work one day, he got a telephone call, because it was so rare for him to be late," she said. "He told them, 'I'm late because I just broke my leg. I need to find a screw to put it back together before I come back in.' "
"That's my dad."
Article and photo by Greg Allen
27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Reprinted from Air Force News Service
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