News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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November 7, 2013

Restoring his honor: Stolen medals replaced for World War II veteran

TERRE HAUTE — At 92, World War II veteran Warren Wyant still had some things he wanted to do. One of them was to be part of the veterans parade in Indianapolis. And the other was to see the medals he was given for his military service once again.

And on Thursday night, as part of a program honoring veterans at Bethesda Gardens Assisted Living, he saw his medals — at least the replacements — again.

According to a media release for the event, Wyant’s Indianapolis home was burglarized nearly one year ago. Among the items taken were his Navy service medals, including a Purple Heart and a Good Conduct medal.

“I didn’t think the Purple Heart would ever show up,” he said after receiving his replacement medals.

But the replacement did show up thanks to months of work by a Bethesda Gardens maintenance man, Tony Shipman, who initiated the efforts to replace the stolen medals.

Shipman worked with government agencies — in the midst of the recent government shutdown — to get the medals verified and replaced.

“I’m just somebody who wants to help out,” Shipman said. “They’re his. They belong to him.”

But Shipman doesn’t want any of the credit.

“I didn’t do anything but make phone calls, file paperwork. … He [Wyant] went to World War II and fought for our freedom,” Shipman said.

“The least we can do is try to recover his stuff,” Shipman, who has heard Wyant’s war stories, said.

One of those stories is how Wyant got the Purple Heart medal.

In 1944, Wyant was shot in the left arm while serving on the USS Meredith (DD-726) on Utah Beach, Normandy, France.

“I was trying to get away from gunfire when I had it,” he said as he showed the scar on his arm.

“The ship was blown in half,” he said.

According to the Department of the Navy, the ship served as escort to transport forces assembling for the Normandy invasion.

“On 6 June, Meredith gave gunfire support to the landing forces on Utah Beach; and early in the morning of the following day, while patrolling the offshore waters as a screening vessel, she struck an enemy mine,” according to a Naval history article.

“Severely damaged, with a loss of seven killed and over 50 wounded and missing, Meredith was towed to an anchorage in the Bay of the Seine to be salvaged. However, on the morning of 9 June, her seams were further opened by an enemy bombing raid and shortly after she broke in two without warning and sank,” it stated.

And Wyant remembers being saved from the water by a landing craft, an Army soldier and another sailor.

“Picked me up three miles from where the ship sunk,” the Nebraska native said.

Before coming to Bethesda Gardens this year, he lived in Indianapolis. In addition to Shipman, he has made other friends in his new home, including Bill Dunn, who also served in the Navy and sat beside him at the event.

Dunn and Wyant were among the 17 veterans from the community who were recognized at the event, “We Honor Veterans,” hosted by Great Lakes Hospice and Home Health. The veterans were given certificates and a U.S. flag lapel pin.

Although he was surprised about seeing the (replacement) medals, Wyant said he was also surprised about being presented the United States flag at the ceremony.

“I was surprised about the flag because I thought you didn’t get that until you die and [they] put it on the casket,” he said laughing.

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