Soldier receives medals sixty years late -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Soldier receives medals sixty years late

August 27, 2003

ALBANY - A South Georgia soldier was awarded several medals for his service to our country Wednesday.  Former Army Sergeant Jack Ledbetter didn't earn them recently in Iraq or Afghanistan, though.  He earned them 60 years ago during World War II.

Jack Ledbetter took a trip back in time as Christopher Pike showed him around a World War II exhibit at Thronateeska Heritage Center.  Several items jarred his memory, such as a uniform identical to the one he wore while overseas.

"Right, Sergeant," he said, recalling his rank as he looked on at the crisp uniform.

Around the corner, an exhibit meant for children also beckoned Ledbetter to stop.  This time, however, it was he who did the teaching, not Pike.  They were looking at a grouping of medals many soldiers earned during the war.

"I received the bronze star," Ledbetter said.  "Mine was for meritorious service."

Ledbetter served in the Army and was in Europe three months before the invasion of France.  He was enlisted from October 1942 through October 1945.  During that time, he earned several medals: the Bronze Star, with an oak leaf cluster; a Good Conduct Medal; the Combat Infantryman Badge, first award; and the Expert Badge, with a Rifle Bar.

But, there were several he did not get before he was discharged. 

"I never got these medals," Ledbetter said. "I reckon I was too anxious to get home."

He said he wanted to be able to pass down all his medals and memories so he called Congressman Sanford Bishop, whose staff immediately got to work on getting Ledbetter his medals.

"We're free as a nation because of men like Mr. Ledbetter, who served our country and fought for the freedoms we enjoy," Congressman Bishop said. 

On Wednesday, sixty years late, the medals were finally is his hands on his chest. "It is a special day," Ledbetter said. A sly grin followed.

The medals that were so long overdue were an American Campaign Medal; the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, with a silver service star; a World War II Victory Medal; and the Honorable Service Lapel Button.

Ledbetter wanted no fanfare, but with his family by his side, his mission was complete. As he addressed them and local media, he told Congressman Bishop, "This rounds out my tour of duty. There's been something missing for sixty years."

The respect he earned in war survived those 60-years without the medals, respect shown by Bishop with a salute to an American hero.

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