By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
Sixty-five years after serving in World War II, John Wiygul got some long-awaited recognition.
On Friday, the Shannon native received four service medals he was supposed to have gotten when he was honorably discharged after the war.
At Sen. Roger Wicker’s Tupelo office, and surrounded by family, Wiygul got an honorable service medal with one oak leaf cluster; a good conduct medal; a European, African and Middle Eastern campaign medal with three oak leaf clusters; and a World War II victory medal.
“I really didn’t even know about them until Mona looked into it,” Wiygul said, nodding to one of his daughters, Mona Viveros.
Viveros said she was looking at her father’s discharge papers and noticed he didn’t have the medals he was supposed to have.
“I was fascinated,” she said. “It was stuff I had heard of but I hadn’t really seen.”
So Viveros started researching about the service medals and ribbons that World War II veterans like her father should have received. After making numerous calls and filling out paperwork, she finally heard last month that her father would be getting his long-awaited medals.
“I hadn’t really thought about them until she called and said we’d have this meeting” Wiygul said.
When Wiygul left his home in Shannon in 1943 to join the U.S. Army, little did he know he would be a global traveler.
At age 18, he was drafted to serve in the war and was assigned to the Army Air Corps’ 584th Bomb Squadron in Europe.
“I went to Camp Shelby, then went to St. Petersburg, Fla., then Sioux Falls, S.D., for radio school, and from there I went to Ft. Myers, Fla., for gunner school,” Wiygul recalled.
From there, Wiygul went to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana near Shreveport and then to Europe.
Wiygul flew 33 missions in a twin-engine B-26 Marauder, a twin-engine bomber the U.S. Army Air Forces called “the chief bombardment weapon on the Western Front” during the war.
“We didn’t see too many (enemy) planes, though,” Wiygul said.
But Wiygul, a waist gunner manning .50-caliber machine guns, knew there was plenty of danger.
“We were replacement crews for the ones who were shot down during the Battle of the Bulge,” he said.
In fact, his brother served in the 10th Armored Division during the battle “but we never saw each other.”
“We lost some planes,” Wiygul said, “about as many from landing and taking off as in combat.”
And there were times he thought he would not make it home to Shannon alive.
But he did.
No parades or celebrations awaited him, however.
A bus dropped him off a quarter-mile from his home and he had to walk in the dark, lugging his duffle bag with him.
“Then when I got home, I got chased out of the yard by our dog,” he laughed.
Now in his 80s, Wiygul can vividly recall the details of his service as part of America’s greatest generation. And even though he didn’t expect to ever get his service medals he deserved, he knows what he’s going to do with them.
“I’m going to put them up on the wall,” he said, beaming.