Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Army Honors World War II POW; Granddaughter Works to Get Him Awards He Never Sought after Captivity Ended

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Army Honors World War II POW; Granddaughter Works to Get Him Awards He Never Sought after Captivity Ended

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton

For Jessie F. Hughes, Christmas 1944 was not a happy time.

He had been taken prisoner a week earlier during the early stages of the Battle of the Bulge as German forces overran the position of the 73rd Field Artillery Battalion, 9th Armored Division, which Hughes was serving as a radio operator.

On Christmas Day, the Germans lined up 400 America POWs and counted off 200, Hughes remembered. Those 200 were sent to eat a Christmas meal. Hughes was 201st in line. He got no meal.

Saturday was a much better day. Surrounded by family and friends, the old soldier, now 94, was honored for his long-ago service with one lapel button, two pins and six medals authorized by Secretary of the Army John McHugh. Col. Barry Bort, chief of staff of the 143rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), pinned the awards on Hughes' blazer as family and friends looked on in a ceremony held at Jacksonville's Veterans Memorial Wall.

Hughes, twice widowed, lives in Beverly Hills, west of Ocala. But one of the four grandchildren who proudly watched him honored is Susan Conyers, a Jacksonville resident. Her husband, Harrison Conyers, is the city's veterans and community outreach manager. The Veterans Memorial Wall, which lists the names of all Jacksonville residents who died in the wars of the 20th and 21st century, just seemed an appropriate setting for the ceremony, Susan Conyers said.

Hughes got his medals largely because of the efforts of his granddaughter, Alison Porter, and her husband, Jeff, who during a 2009 visit from Hughes began asking him if he'd earned any medals in the war. Hughes didn't know.

"He was too humble to say much," Jeff Porter said. "I had to press him."

Determined to see appropriate honors given to a man who, at age 23, had volunteered to serve and had been part of the war in Europe from D-Day invasion of Normandy in June 1944 to the German counterattack in the Ardennes Forest in December 1944, the Porters began researching the question.

"My granddaughter is behind this whole thing," Hughes said before the ceremony. "It's an unexpected thing altogether."

Hughes had been liberated from German captivity in mid-April 1945 and quickly headed home. …

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