Mar 10, 2014 Joe Genco Uncategorized
“Thanks,” was all Richard Faulkner felt he needed to say when asked if he wanted to say a few a words to the crowd gathered at Bluefield Manor in Auburn on March 8.
Faulkner was presented with a Purple Heart medal, the U.S. Military’s recognition for veterans wounded in combat, an honor he originally refused following his service as an airman in World War II almost 70 years ago.
At a ceremony with friends, family and current and past members of the military in attendance, Faulkner was presented with the award by U.S. Congressman Dan Maffei.
Originally from Hannibal, Faulkner grew up in Skaneateles and lived there for most of his life. After graduating from Skaneateles High School in 1942, he enlisted in the military and served in the air corps. On March 18, 1944, the B-17 plane, on which Faulkner was a ball-turret gunner, crashed over Nazi-occupied France. Faulkner was the only survivor of the crash and spent 29 days behind enemy lines hiding from the Gestapo and looking for friendly forces.
After his daring escape, Faulkner was offered, and declined, the Purple Heart award, he was 19 years old at the time.
Following the war, Faulkner worked for many years as a lineman for New York Gas and Electric Company, living in Mottville and Skaneateles, before moving to Auburn in retirement.
Though he has never been keen to talk about the war and his remarkable story, Mary Ellen Faulkner, Richard’s daughter-in-law, said she contacted Maffei’s office about the honor after hearing that he had a change of heart.
“He never really talked about the war until the last 10 years, but like a year ago he said he wished he never turned it down, because it would something good for his grandchildren and great grandchildren,” she said.
Faulkner’s family members said that he originally refused the award out of humility and respect for his fellow soldiers whom did not make it home to receive such an honor.
The ceremony was also a chance to honor those fallen soldiers and all those that have served, Maffei said.
“I think that is why we are all here today, it is to honor Mr. Faulkner, but it is also to honor all those who have served in all of our wars, particularly World War II and the many that didn’t come back,” he said.
As Faulkner was presented with the medal, Army Captain Michael Halter read a memo, signed by Secretary of the Army John McHugh, certifying the medal as being awarded by the President of the United States.
The Purple Heart award dates back to the American Revolutionary War. On Aug. 7, 1782, General George Washington established a Badge of Military Merit, which was later, renamed the Purple Heart in 1932, according to thepurpleheart.org.
It is officially described as: “The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action.”
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.