Woodworth recovers WWII decorations

World War II veteran Paul Woodworth of Prairie City was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asia-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and the Philippine Liberation Medal. Contributed photo

Grant County People

Paul Woodworth has been a resident of Prairie City for many years and has been actively involved in his community. He's served as Prairie City Chief of Police (retiring in the late 1980s), was twice elected as Prairie City mayor (during the 1970s he helped secure a government grant to build a new city hall and police station), served on the City Council and was instrumental in starting the program for holiday baskets to families in need. For years he was an EMT and currently has been driving the Prairie City Ambulance. At age 79, he recently completed the first responder class. He's served his community well.

Mr. Woodworth also served his country. He was stationed in the Philippines 1942-46 during World War II and was an Army Platoon Leader. Like many, he didn't talk about those days much.

After the war, he and his wife, Maxine, lived near Vale, then in 1953 settled at Prairie City. The couple has six children: Stan Woodworth of Burns, Ken Winder of Newberg, Les Woodworth of Prairie City, Vanessa Verheyen of West Richland, Wash., Mark Woodworth of Bend; 14 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. A son, David, is deceased.

Growing up, his children had heard scattered information of the war years and knew of his injuries - serious damage to his lower left leg that occurred in 1944 during three separate incidents all on one particular fateful day. The life-threatening injuries required many surgeries to rebuild his leg.

The family was aware that he had received medals. About three years ago during a family gathering, Paul revealed more detail. The family knew he had received the Purple Heart for being injured and a Bronze Star for bravery, and also other medals. But where were the medals?

Paul recalled as a young man giving the medals to his mother; then they were misplaced. One thing the family unequivocally knew was that he earned those medals - and he deserved to have them.

Daughter Vanessa Verheyen of West Richland, Wash., was inspired by her father's story. She also was determined to do something about restoring his medals. She had married into a military family - her husband, Glen, served in the United States Air Force and was stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Wash. Interestingly enough, a couple of years ago Vanessa had taken a specific class for preparing and framing shadow boxes while at the base. Last year, when her husband retired after 35-years of service, she made a memorabilia display for him.

Vanessa was aware that the family of a former serviceman can acquire replacement medals for that person. Thinking of her father's lost medals, the process began. She made her request to the headquarters in St. Louis, Mo., then it took about a year for the military to verify her father's service record along with medals received.

The result: After 60 years, Paul Woodworth has a full restoration of the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asia-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and the Philippine Liberation Medal. The medals and lapel pins were mounted in a shadow box prepared by Vanessa and were presented to Paul during Thanksgiving 2002.

"It was a pleasure for me to do this for my dad," said Vanessa.

And the word is that he was delighted with the gift, too.

"The soul of a journey is liberty, perfect liberty, to think, feel, do just as one pleases."- William Hazlitt.

If you have interesting tid-bits about Grant County people, contact Heather at 575-0710 or e-mail heather@bluemountaineagle.com.

TO REQUEST REPLACEMENT MEDALS FOR A SERVICEMAN/WOMAN:

Send a written request with military member's signature, if possible, to National Personnel Records Center, 9700 Page Ave., St. Louis, Mo. 63132-5100. Include Social Security number and a copy of military discharge form, if available. Allow about a year to process all the paper work and receive the medals.

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