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World War II veteran, whose military medals were stolen, gets his wish for new set of medals before Christmas

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Fri, Dec 28th 2018 05:25 pm
Capt. Warren presents the Bronze Star to Corp. Dodges. (Submitted photo)
Capt. Warren presents the Bronze Star to Corp. Dodges. (Submitted photo)

Higgins asks Pentagon to expedite request; medals arrive 74 years after Corp. Andrew Dodges earned his Purple Heart

World War II veteran Andrew J. Dodges reached out to Congressman Brian Higgins in late November with a Christmas wish: to receive a new set of the military service medals he earned while serving in the U.S. Army. Dodges’ medals, including a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, were stolen from his home.

The process for securing a second set of medals typically takes months. First a servicemember’s history must be reviewed by the National Personnel Records Center, then a listing of eligible medals is forwarded to the appropriate department of the military, and finally the medals are shipped out.

Higgins received confirmation of Dodges’ eligibility for medals on Dec. 17, and his office immediately contacted personnel at the U.S. Department of the Army who worked to collect and put together an express shipment of the medals. And with a little Christmas magic and some help from the Army, the medals arrived on Dec. 20, 74 years after Dodges earned his medals during service in World War II.

On Dec. 21, Dodges received the following medals, presented by Buffalo Recruiting Company Cmdr. Capt. Randy D. Warren:

•Bronze Star, awarded to members of the military distinguishing themselves by heroic service while engaged in an action against an armed enemy.

•Purple Heart, presented to soldiers who have been injured or killed in action against the enemy while serving with the U.S. Armed Services. The original Purple Heart, first designated the “Badge of Military Merit,” was established by Gen. George Washington in 1782.

•Good Conduct Medal

•European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two Bronze Service Stars

•World War II Victory Medal

•Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award

•Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII 

Higgins said, “Corp. Andrew Dodges and other brave men and women who serve this nation have given each of us the priceless gift of freedom. It is truly an honor for us to help make this happen. We thank the staff at the Pentagon and the leadership here at the Buffalo Recruiting Company for their assistance with this special delivery.”

Dodges was born in Buffalo on Oct. 13, 1925. He was inducted into the U.S. Army on Dec. 28, 1943, and served as a squad leader in the 411th Infantry Regiment, 103rd Infantry Division, Company E. Dodges served in the European Campaign, under Gen. George S. Patton’s army.

One day, in a small French village, Dodges and men from his troop were sleeping in a fox hole, expecting an attack the next morning. Suddenly, mortars began flying from a shed a short distance from the fox hole. Dodges braved the flying ammunition, crawled to the shed, and threw in grenades, eliminating the threat. The courageous action saved his fellow soldiers and earned him the Bronze Star.

Dodges recalled the day he earned his Purple Heart (Dec. 10, 1944). In Haguenau, France, mortars were raging when he was hit by shrapnel in his left arm, shoulder and neck. With gushing wounds, he was transferred by ground to the nearby Army hospital. It was a long, three-month recovery, but he was lucky to be alive and save his arm. He credits the hospital staff; many of the doctors and nurses serving overseas were from Buffalo General Hospital. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe took command and, hearing he had wounded men, came to visit Dodges in the hospital. The Battle of the Bulge was underway and the bombs could be heard from inside the hospital.

Following his discharge from the Army on April 16, 1946, Dodges used his G.I. Bill benefits to earn a degree in engineering from the University of Alabama. He returned to Western New York and fell in love with Maryann McCarthy, a girl from South Buffalo’s Old First Ward, whose brother owned Gene McCarthy’s Tavern.

Dodges worked as an engineer, first with the Bureau of Reclamation, and then more than 40 years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District. He was involved in many of the region’s transformative public works projects, including construction of the Mount Morris Dam near Letchworth State Park in the late 1940s, construction of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station in the 1950s, and the 1969 project that “turned off” Niagara Falls. Today, the retired corporal makes his home in the Town of West Seneca.

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