Veteran gets medal after 60 years

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By Cindy DiFazio

Staff writer/photographer

Depending on the perspective of glass half full or glass half empty, Pleasureville resident Uley Washburn either received an early Christmas present this year or a very, very late one.

Though discharged from the U.S. Army in 1946, Washburn did not receive his Philippine Liberation Medal until this year. “It was 62 years late,” he said. “It was on my discharge I was due this, but I just now got it.”

The Philippine Liberation Medal was awarded to members of the armed forces who participated in the World War II liberation of the Philippine Islands between Oct. 17, 1944 and Sept. 2, 1945. It was created by an order of Commonwealth of the Philippines Army Headquarters.

Service members who served in the Philippines or participated in engagement against Japanese forces during the campaign were eligible for the honor. Washburn was in an artillery unit stationed in Iceland at the time of the liberation of the islands. “We got a Japanese plane up in Iceland,” he said, “and we shot that down.”

Janet Washburn, said her father lost most of his hearing in Iceland. “He can’t hear because of the guns at the end of the runway,” she said. Janet Washburn said her father told her it wasn’t anything like Kentucky there. “He said it was awful cold in Iceland,” she said. “It actually snowed on the Fourth of July.”

Washburn also was stationed in Okinawa, Japan at the tail end of the war. “We landed on Okinawa just after the war ended,” he said.

Washburn was in Honolulu, Hawaii, for V-J Day, but said he didn’t remember a whole lot of excitement from that historic day. “They let us off in Honolulu and we just walked around town,” he said.

Born March 3, 1921, the son of John and Neva Washburn, he has lived his whole life in Pleasureville, except for the 44 months he spent in the service of the U.S. Army.

Neighbor Julian Porter Roberts said he can’t remember a time when the Washburn family did not live right where they are now on Bonnie Fork Road. He said the Washburn homestead is an old house with rock chimneys on both ends, leading him to believe that part of it is an old log home. Janet Washburn said the farm originally belonged to her great-grandparents who sold it in 1935 to another branch of the family. “My dad bought it in 1950,” she said.

“He’s just a fine fella, a very unique gentleman,” Roberts said. “It had to be quite difficult coming from here and then going through the war like he did.”

Washburn said when he returned from the war he went right back to farming and has farmed ever since. He said he also worked for Henry County Public Schools. “I drove a school bus for 13 years,” Washburn said. “Then I mowed grass until retiring in 1984.” Janet Washburn said her dad still works outside. “He gets out here and cuts his wood and mows his yard,” she said. “He just has a little arthritis.”

He and wife, Viola married on August 3, 1946, and had three children. Ava Delores Cooper is 57, Uley, Jr. is 51 and Janet is 45. They have three granddaughters, four great-granddaughters and one great-grandson.

Washburn said it was Uley, Jr. who finally succeeded in obtaining the Philippine Liberation Medal he had waited for so long.

“They said they didn’t have it,” he said. “My son finally tracked it down this year.” Uley Washburn, Jr. said because it was not manufactured by the U.S. government, he did not attempt to go through those channels to obtain the medal. “It came from the Philippines,” he said.

Uley Washburn, Jr. said he found a replacement medal online and purchased it from E-Bay.

Washburn said he had received other medals including the Good Conduct Medal and the European Theater Medal.

“He (Uley, Jr.) goes through the Washburn family history,” he said. “He kept telling me ‘I’m going to get this for you. You deserve it.”

Uley Washburn, Jr. said his father reacted stoically upon receiving the long-awaited symbol of his service. “He kind of teared up a little bit and went on,” he said.

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