Story and photos by Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Taylor
85th Support Command
WHEATON, Ill. — U.S. Army World War II veteran, Frank Andrews, 94, was awarded six medals, to include the Purple Heart, from Brig. Gen. Gracus K. Dunn, Commanding General of the 85th Support Command and Deputy Commanding General for Support of First Army, Division West, on Nov. 3, during a surprise ceremony at the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Ill.
“I can’t explain it. It’s something that I never expected or thought of in all my life,” said Andrews. “It’s surprising. I wasn’t even thinking of it and my family was excited about it. But it’s just part of life, and I’m not the only one because there are a lot of others that deserve more credit. I’m just one past member that’s a part of it. You try to do the best (that) you can.”
Andrews was honored with an award ceremony for his service and actions during World War II, to include landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day during the Normandy Invasion, where he sustained injuries to his leg during an explosion; he also received injuries to his back and head during the Battle of the Bulge campaign where a V-1 “Buzz Bomb” exploded.
“I did live Omaha Beach,” said Andrews. “My leg was messed up, but you keep going on. You can’t forget. You have to do your job and hope for the best.”
The request for the awards was recently received, through the 85th Support Command’s public affairs office, for Andrews who did not receive his awards when he was separated from the U.S. Army in 1945. Andrews submitted an initial request in 1984, and was told that though he was entitled to the six awards, but they regrettably were unable to furnish them at that time. The document stated that the medals would be provided to him when they were in stock.
Nearly 200 guests attended the ceremony to include Army Reserve Ambassador for the State of Illinois, William Hawes; Mayor of Arlington Heights, Thomas Hayes; and former Mayor of Arlington Heights, Arlene Mulder; Mayor of Wheaton, Michael Gresk; Mayor of Winfield, Erik Spande; 70 members from the Andrews family; and Army Reserve Soldiers from the 85th Support Command and the 85th Army Band, 88th Regional Support Command. Andrews also received letters of thanks and appreciation, at the ceremony, from the Chief of the Army Reserve, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, and Illinois Congressman Bradley S. Schneider.
Dunn made remarks reflecting on generational differences and expanding on the idea of how long 70 years is and how much time Andrews waited for his awards.
“Seventy years waiting for his medals, how much patience do we have today,” said Dunn. “In 1943, there were approximately 7 million soldiers in the U.S. Army with a U.S. population of about 136 million. Today our Army is 1.1 million with the active Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard combined in a U.S. population of over 300 million. Pfc. Frank Andrews was an enlisted man that earned an average base pay of 71 dollars which is enough today to fill up a tank of gas. Right now we have a living history, a legacy with us here today… it is an honor to sit here and honor one of our own that served 70 years ago.”
Andrews received the Purple Heart, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, American Defense Service Medal, and the Army Good Conduct Medal. Andrews was previously awarded the French Legion of Honor Medal in 2010. Created by Napoleon in 1802, it is the highest honor that France can bestow upon those who achieved remarkable deeds for France.
Andrews’ wife of 72 years, Mary, and their four children and grandchildren were amongst the list of guests at the ceremony.
Many members of the Andrews family were also surprised upon hearing about the ceremony and stated that they never really knew what Andrews did in the war because he never wanted to talk about it.
“It’s hard to talk about the war,” said Andrews. “I would rather enjoy my family than anything else because they’re my whole heart and soul, my wife. We’ve been married (for) 72 years.”
Mary Andrews, wife of Frank Andrews, received flowers during the ceremony as a token of appreciation. During the war, she sent many letters to her husband. During the Battle of the Bulge, Andrews sustained injuries after an explosion, and became separated from his unit. Following that, the letters started returning back home indicating to Andrew’s wife that her husband was missing.
“When he was away in service, I wrote him everyday, but he wasn’t getting my letters,” said M. Andrews.
When Andrews joined the Army in preparation for the war, his oldest son, James, was three months old. When he returned from the war, his son was three years old. He struggled to find work in Chicago until he received a job working at the U.S. Postal Service.
“Thank you. This is an honor for me and an honor for all the people that have served regardless of branch,” said Andrews. “ I thank you for coming out and giving me this honor.”