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The Times
  • Oppenheim man receives Purple Heart medal

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  • Allen Youker, Jr. said his father never talked about the bad things that happened during his service in World War II.
    Instead, he only talked about the good times, such as when they went fishing with grenades or going deer hunting for dinner.
    Youker, Jr. recounted this shortly before a small ceremony where his father, Allen Youker, Sr., would be presented with the Purple Heart Medal, a distinction he received during his time with the U.S. Army's 35th Infantry in Santa Fe.
    Youker, Sr., 91, of Oppenheim, had received his ribbon and paper that comes with being awarded the Purple Heart, but never received the medal.
    The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the president to any member of the nation's armed forces who was wounded or killed in combat with a declared enemy of the U.S.
    The medal is the oldest military award still given to members of the nation's armed forces. George Washington, then the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, established the original Purple Heart, designated as the Badge of Military Merit, by order from his Newburgh headquarters on Aug. 7, 1782.
    When asked what Youker, Sr. did to earn the medal, Youker, Jr. replied, "He won't talk about it. A lot of the details, he never discussed."
    Youker, Jr. said his father did serve in the Battle of the Bulge, which took place from December 1944 to January 1945 in the Ardennes, in Belgium, Luxemburg and Germany. The battle was a surprise attack that caught Allied forces off guard. It is the second deadliest battle in American history, in which over 19,000 soldiers were killed.
    Sharon Youker, wife of Youker, Jr., said the family had asked him for years if he wanted to receive the medal, but he had always declined. It wasn't until this past April he decided that he finally wanted the medal he earned during his service nearly 70 years ago.
    Youker said she contacted the Herkimer County Veterans Service Agency, which assisted her in getting the medal and other awards Youker, Sr. deserved.
    Fort Plain Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 3275 Commander Bob Slater and past post commanders presented Youker with the medal and other honors during a ceremony at his residence on Gray-Youker Road. He also received the World War II Campaign Medal and the European-African Campaign Ribbon, as well as a marksmen medal.
    Each time a medal or ribbon was presented to him, Youker replied with, "Thank-you."
    "I feel pretty good, after 69 years," said Youker, Sr. after receiving the honors, who dressed in his old Army jacket and hat for the occasion.
    Youker, Jr. said when his father returned from the war, he built homes and worked as a machinist. He spent nearly 40 years working at Daniel Green, the slipper and shoe factory in Dolgeville, before retiring.
    Page 2 of 2 - Several family members gathered for the occasion, including Youker, Sr.'s granddaughter, Amanda Youker.
    "I'm honored and proud. I'm excited for him and glad he's getting [the medal]. He's pretty modest about it," she said. She was there with her daughter, Naomi Wronkoski, Youker, Sr.'s great-granddaughter. "Look at him. He's smiling and cracking jokes. And he can still fit into his uniform."
    Sharon Youker said she was motivated to do the work behind getting the medal for her father-in-law.
    "He was very humbled about it," she said. "He was part of the greatest generation."

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