Local veteran receives medals from wife of U.S. senator

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 20, 2006

Late was most certainly better than never for one World War II veteran who was honored Tuesday by Fran DeWine, the visiting wife of U.S. Senator Mike DeWine.

Retired Cpl. Kohn Whitley got a bevy of medals during the brief ceremony in the auditor’s office of the Lawrence County Courthouse. In addition to his American Campaign medal and commendations for working with tanks and being a carbine gunner, Whitley received the Soldier’s Medal and the Silver Star, the third highest military honor available.

Some of the medals were replacements, but others he had been trying to obtain for years, something that he said wasn’t accomplished until he got Sen. DeWine’s help.

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“Mike and I have always enjoyed being down here to this part of the state,” said DeWine. “The people are so good.”

DeWine presented Whitley with several medals, but the one that he said made him the proudest was the Silver Star, awarded for “gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.”

Whitley received the award for his destruction of German 88-mm artillery, some of the most devastating antitank weapons in the war. He destroyed them while serving as gun commander and gunner all in the middle of indirect fire.

“It’s just my pleasure to give them to him,” DeWine said. “It’s just so important that we take care of our veterans and recognize them, whether it’s our veterans from World War II or our men and women coming back from Iraq. We’ve got to.”

To that end, DeWine touted some of the work that her husband has done for veterans while serving for 12 years in the senate.

“If a soldier is killed in Iraq and he has young children, we were cutting off their medical benefits after three years,” DeWine said. “He actually changed the law so they would get medical benefits until they were 18.”

While DeWine reflected on the current war, Whitley was reflecting on his honors from wars past.

“I’ve never seen so many medals,” said Whitley, as he carefully laid his awards side by side in the courthouse before adding with a laugh,

“I’ve never heard of some of them.”