Birthday is marked with honorPublished 9:29am Wednesday, September 2, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
When it was all said and done, it looked like a standard birthday celebration.
Ice cream and cake topped with sugary frosting in bright white and yellow sat atop paper plates. Tables were covered in plastic table cloths and birthday cards slipped inside colorful envelopes sat waiting to be opened.
But for Ruth Briney, who turned 92 on Tuesday, this birthday would be marked as anything but ordinary.
Sitting with her, LCDR Robert E. Hemp, CIH Commanding Officer with the United States Coast Guard’s Sector Field Office in Grand Haven.
Hemp made the trip down to Niles Tuesday to present Briney with a very special gift.
After an almost six month search, Briney’s son, Leslie had not only unearthed a listing of decorations that had not been awarded to his uncle, Ruth’s brother Frederick J. Molitor for his service as a Merchant Marine, Chief Engineer during World War II, he was able to have those decorations issued and presented them to his mother for her birthday.
“I was at the funeral of her other brother,” Leslie said Tuesday, when the idea came to him to begin his search for honors possibly due his uncle. Military service apparently running in the family, as he was at the funeral for Ruth’s other brother, he said there was a shadowbox display of his military decorations.
Said Leslie, “I thought nobody knows” if any honors had been bestowed upon Molitor as well.
“At the end of the war, everyone’s getting out and it’s rush, rush,” Leslie said. He imagined it would have been possible for the honors that might have been due his uncle to have been lost in the passage of time.
Through the United States Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, United States Coast Guard, Leslie unearthed five decorations available for his uncle.
Those decorations include the Merchant Marine emblem, Honorable Service button, Victory Medal with ribbon bar, Atlantic War Zone ribbon bar and medal and a letter delivered to those who served during World War II by President Harry S. Truman.
“To you who answered the call of your country and served in its Merchant Marine to bring about the total defeat of the enemy, I extend the heartfelt thanks of the Nation,” the letter stated. “You undertook a most severe task – one which called for courage and fortitude. Because you demonstrated resourcefulness and calm judgment necessary to carry out that task, we now look to you for leadership and example in further serving our country in peace.”
Hemp gave a brief address and presented the medals, ribbons and accompanying letters to Briney as her friends and family gathered at a reception held at Ontario Place in Niles Township.
“She didn’t have any idea,” said her son, himself a retired Master Sargent with the United States Air Force. “It was good.”
“First, (I was) stunned,” said Briney. “To see all these people, friends and relatives… Second? I had to keep from crying.”
Briney is a matriarch of five generations.
It was a birthday marked with a preservation of the past and a wealthy future.
“This,” Leslie said again, looking at his mother as she sat across from Hemp, “this is good.”