World War II veteran receives his Bronze Star 17 years after his death

By FAYE WALTMAN
Guest Columnist

My dad, Walter Fafara, was a proud World War II veteran. He joined the Army, April 7, 1942, at the age

Walter Fafara
Walter Fafara

of 25 as a truck driver.
During his years in the Army, he served in Germany, Central Europe and the Aleutian Islands before being discharged from Camp McCoy in Wisconsin, Oct. 30, 1945. He never spoke much about his combat time to my mom, my two brothers or me, but my favorite story was how his battalion stood for hours in formation in the heat waiting for General Patton to inspect them. Instead, all he did was fly over them to which my Dad said he really didn’t like Patton anymore.
We always attended the Memorial Day services at the then Camp Ripley cemetery and he was so proud of the way everything was conducted. So when he passed away in April 1999, we knew exactly where he needed to be resting.
Last year, my mom gave me a shadow box with some of his military mementos which included his medals. So, being curious as to what they were for, we started look online for information. We found information for the Good Metal Conduct Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Theater Service Medal and the European – African – Middle Eastern Theater Service Medal. He also received the World War II combat Infantryman’s Badge and everything I read stated he should have also received the Bronze Star because of that particular badge.
Not knowing if we were getting the correct information, my husband and I made an appointment to see Kathy Marshik at our local Veterans Affairs office. She faxed Dad’s information to the National Personnel Records Center May 11, 2015, and then we waited.
Finally in October 2015, I received the official letter from them. A fire July 12, 1973, had destroyed most of military records for the periods 1912 through 1959, but they had alternate records sources that contained information used to reconstruct service records. We found out that he was also entitled to receive the American Campaign medal in addition to what we already were aware of. But the information about the infantryman’s badge was what we were anxious to find out about.
Yes indeed, he was entitled to a Bronze Star Medal. Per the letter received, “it had been established in February 1944, and the announcement of the criteria of the award was made several months later. At the conclusion of World War II, General George C. Marshall, upon reviewing the number of awards received by infantrymen, was disturbed to learn that comparatively few had received recognition and that infantrymen accounted for more casualties than any other branch or element of the U.S. Armed Forces. It was determined that many commanders were unaware of the criteria for awarding the Bronze Star Medal. The reason, combined with the late announcement of award criteria, caused an inequity. In order to rectify this disparity and oversight, the criteria was established for Combat Infantryman Badge and Combat Medical Badge during the period Dec. 7, 1941, to Sept. 2, 1945, to receive the Bronze Star Medal. No citation is available because none were issued for the Bronze Star Medals awarded under this authority.”
The letter also stated we would be receiving all the medals that Dad earned plus the Bronze Star Medal from a separate division. And again we waited. Then on March 16, the package arrived and my dad would have been so proud, as we are, to know he finally received the Bronze Star Medal he so deserved.
So this year, we are looking forward to Memorial Day knowing that he will be receiving a new marker at the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery with the Bronze Star on it.

Faye Waltman is a resident of Little Falls.