Veterans receives long-deserved war medals
By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- World War II veteran and prisoner of war Lewis Stanage of Three Oaks has waited 58 years for his medals of honor.
His waiting period came to and end this weekend.
On Saturday, Jon McLaughlin, American Legion Post 26 Commander, presented Stanage with six medals, including the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the POW medal.
Stanage had already received the medals but wanted McLaughlin to officially present him with the medals at the Legion Post where he has been a member for 30 years.
Several people were gathered at the Post to celebrate the belated recognition of Stanage's service to the country.
Over the last year, she has worked hard to ensure her brother would receive the medals he was entitled to.
She thinks her brother deserves the recognition, especially after what he went through during his captivity.
Hinman said her brother had to sleep on the ground with only a blanket in the middle of winter.
The only food served each day was a small portion of potato peel soup and a cup of coffee.
Getting the medals has been a long and difficult process because Stanage's records got lost after the war, Hinman said.
She said Deborah Arnt, with the Berrien County Veterans Service Office in St. Joseph, has helped track down the information needed to obtain the medals.
Stanage was 18 years old when he was drafted.
He was with the Army's 79 Division, who fought in the campaign to free Europe from the Nazi regime.
Having arrived in France a week after D-Day in Normandie, 1944, Stanage said he was captured by retreating Germans in January of 1945.
In April that same year, Stanage said he and other POW's were liberated by U.S Air Force soldiers.
After returning to the U.S after the war, Stanage worked for Bendix, a Bridgman factory, before he retired in 1985.
Stanage, who now lives in South Bend, vividly remembers how the Germans treated him and other POW's.
His worst memory from being in captivity was the lack of food.
Stanage said two to three guys were carried away dead each day, victims of malnutrition.
On April 2, the day of his liberation, Stanage's first request was a simple one, and one the soldiers who liberated him could easily fulfill.
Stanage said he is glad to finally have received the recognition and grateful to his sister who has worked so hard to help him get them.
Arnt, whose organization works to ensure veterans are treated fairly by federal veterans organizations, said she filled out the necessary paperwork with any information available on Stanage.
The paperwork was then sent to the National Personnel Records in St. Louis, Mo, she said.
In the meantime, a newspaper article was found stating the days Stanage was captured and liberated, and the decision was turned around.
Arnt said her office deals with quite a few cases where soldiers are trying to get their medals.
Arnt said she is glad Stanage case has had a successful outcome.