DU QUOIN — Shirley Smith and family had just moved her 90-something-year-old father into a facility where he could receive help caring for himself and had made him a patriotic display in a corner of his room.
"He said, 'the only thing missing from that is my discharge papers and the medals I got toward the end of the war' and I thought ‘oh, my gosh,'" Smith said of her father, Sgt. Robert Morrow.
She went to the Perry County Courthouse, where she got a copy of her father's charge papers, where it indicated what medals he had received: Good Conduct, an end of WWII medal, service in the European African Middle Eastern Campaign, a medal that will have two little bronze stars on it because Morrow was in an area with actual combat; a gold lapel pin; and a rifle insignia.
She took the information to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Marion, where administrators put in a requisition for the medals.
Bill Enyart, a two-star Major General with the U.S. Air Force and former Illinois Congressman, will pin the medals on Morrow; that comes during a special ceremony honoring him on Wednesday, Aug. 16, at the VFW building in Du Quoin.
Morrow was three months shy of 20 when he asked to have his draft number bumped up the ranks, making himself a voluntary draftee into the U.S. Army in March 1943. He served until he was discharged in December 1945, returning home to Southern Illinois.
Shortly after returning home, he married Viola Smith, and the two will celebrate their 75th anniversary on Oct. 3. They have three daughters, eight grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
Smith said her father, who spent the bulk of his life working for coal mines in the Du Quoin and Herrin areas, did not talk much about his wartime experience. He retired from the coal mines around age 62, his daughter said.
“He never talked about it, the only thing I knew growing up is that he was in England," Smith said.
At the suggestion of Archie Hampleman, commander of VFW Post 53, she's been interviewing her father to learn more details of his military experience.
She said he's somewhat embarrassed by all the attention about the service medals.
“We’re excited for him,” Smith said. “And we’re just proud to be a part of his family.”