Friday, November 9, 2012

Stolen WWII medals reinstated to Soldier's sister

121109-Z-TK422-788 by oregonmildep
121109-Z-TK422-788, a photo by oregonmildep on Flickr.
David Funk (right), Chairman of the 41st Infantry Division Association, presents Rosetta LaBonte, of Portland, Ore., with the Purple Heart medal at the Oregon National Guard's Open House at Camp Withycombe, in Clackamas, Ore., Nov. 9, as former Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski looks on.

The medals, which were stolen during a home burglary, were bestowed to LaBonte's family following numerous inquiries by Funk as he worked through various government agencies to have the medals reinstated.

LaBonte's brother, Sgt. Eli A. DuMonte, who was a member of the Oregon Army National Guard's 41st Infantry Division during WWII, was killed during the battle of Biak in 1944.  He was posthumously awarded the medals.

"This was the right thing to do, and I wasn't going to take no for an answer," Funk said, speaking about the government bureaucracy he faced trying to get the medals reinstated.

Funk also faced the challenge presented by archived military records in St. Louis, Mo., which had been destroyed in a fire in 1973. Undaunted, Funk queried several government agencies, and tracked down a fellow Soldier of DuMonte in order to obtain sworn statements supporting the original awarding of the medals.

"This is for my brother, but it's really for my mother and my family," LaBonte said following the ceremony in the second floor auditorium.

The 41st Infantry Division's deployment during WWII was the longest on record, and involved the largest number of Oregon Soldiers.  Personnel were primarily assigned to the Pacific Theater of Operations, fighting in several key battles, including Biak and New Guinea.

The ceremony was attended by about 100 local business leaders, Oregon National Guard leadership, and well-wishers.

The Camp Withycombe open house also brought together several groups, including Native American Tribal members, Oregon National Guard Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen, veterans groups, and area residents.

A portion of the ceremony included a presentation of donations by local businesses for the renovation of the Oregon Military Museum, located at Camp Withycombe.  Three companies each donated $50,000 at the event.

For more information on the 41st Inf. Div. Association, go here.  For more information on the Oregon Historical Outreach Foundation, and the capital campaign to raise funds for the renovation of the Oregon Military Museum, visit their website here.

Photo by Master Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs.

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