June 14, 2015 –
CHICAGO – In a weekend full of flood advisories and heavy downpour, the cloud clusters subsided over Lincoln Cemetery, on June 14, where soldiers, veterans, local residents and the family of World War II Army Sgt. Lawrence V. Blanchet stood below to pay honor and recognition to Blanchet 70 years after the war.
Blanchet enlisted into the Army immediately after graduating from high school and served fighting in Italy during WWII with Bravo Company, 365th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Infantry “Buffalo” Division.
On Feb. 10, 1945, Blanchet was killed in action (KIA) during a push forward by his company after bypassing several German snipers and a machine gun nest. Blanchet exposed himself to kill all enemy snipers except one after three members of his company were killed, and
several had been wounded according to his award citation. Within 10 yards of the last enemy sniper, Blanchet raised himself to throw a grenade and was killed by enemy fire.
Blanchet was buried there with one of his identification tags, and reported KIA to Headquarters Company. Six years later, an Italian farmer found his remains, notified authorities, and Blanchet’s remains were returned to Chicago in 1951 where he was interred.
Blanchet was posthumously awarded the Silver Star on May 12, 1945 by Headquarters Mediterranean Theater of Operations. The War Department sent the medal and citation to the Blanchet family in Chicago, but no formal military ceremony was conducted stated Philip R.
DePriest, nephew of Blanchet.
“I moved back to Chicago in 1996 and have been taking care of (Blanchet’s) grave since I moved back,” said DePriest. “I [come] out here about three or four times a year [during] Memorial Day, Veterans Day and clean up his stone, [and] place a flag on it; but it’s always
bothered me that there’s no recognition of him being awarded the Silver Star on his headstone.”
DePriest further explained that he was undergoing the process to have his uncle’s award engraved onto his headstone, but a formal military ceremony was important to bring closure for the family and to give his uncle the proper recognition.
In his coordination, DePriest reached out to his brother, retired Army Brig. Gen. Oscar DePriest, currently Army Reserve Ambassador for the State of Massachusetts, and asked him for guidance on obtaining the recognition for their uncle.
O. DePriest, also in attendance, shared that this bothered his brother for a long time and it was closure especially for his mother, Betty Jane DePriest, 86, Blanchet’s sister.
“I’m very moved and very proud and hope that I don’t cry,” said B. DePriest. “I’m glad to be here. I never dreamed that this would happen, but my youngest son, Philip was always hoping to do something for my brother, and he got this together with his brother and they all pitched in – and here we are.”
B. DePriest explained that six years passed between the period where her brother was killed and when his body finally returned home. She stated that her brother would have turned 90 this October.
“It was so good to have him come home. It was so good,” she said. “He was an exceptional young man, really. He was a great loss to humanity.”
In the planning and coordination, the DePriest family connected with the Army Reserve Command and the 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support) providing military honors for Blanchet. Chicago land’s Army Reserve soldiers from the 330th Medical Brigade; 337th Military Intelligence Battalion; 378th MI BN; 379th Chemical Company; 4th Battalion, Chemical, 100th Regiment; and the 85th Support Command came together to give Blanchet his military funeral honors. A rifle team conducted three volleys of shots, taps was played and a flag folding
presentation was performed, surrounded by a flag line by the American Veterans Motorcycle Association, Chapter Seven.
Rev. Michael Sykes, cousin of P. DePriest, also participated giving the invocation and benediction for the ceremony.
Col. Albert F. Gruber, 330th Medical Brigade, presented the Silver Star to Blanchet’s sister following a reading of the citation by Maj. Paula Y. Wilson, 330th MB. An American flag was also presented to B. DePriest by Lt. Col. Robert Y. Moore, 330th MB.
“I volunteered,” said Spc. Nicole Flannigan, 378th MI BN. “It meant pure honor -- that we get to do something for a fallen soldier.”
P. DePriest shared his thoughts for the ceremony that took place there.
“It’s almost surreal. – And it was just a thought in the back of my mind come reality. I did it for my uncle and I did it for my mother. That was her only brother. He was an only son. He didn’t have to be in a combat unit, and he volunteered to be in a combat unit,” he said. “That is just a reflection of his character. He loved being a soldier.”