TribLIVE

| USWorld


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Vet receives long-delayed medals, promotes reconciliation with Japan

Daily Photo Galleries

By The Associated Press
Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, 6:27 p.m.
 

TULSA — Given the choice, World War II veteran Phillip Coon probably wouldn't want the formality and fuss of being honored on a military base with men and women standing at attention, dressed in full regalia — even if it was with a fistful of long-overdue medals he waited decades to receive.

So it's fitting that the awards were presented to the humble Tulsa-area man on Monday evening in an informal ceremony at the Tulsa International Airport, with family and fellow veterans in attendance and little pomp and circumstance.

The 94-year-old survivor of a POW labor camp and the Bataan Death March received the Prisoner of War Medal, Bronze Star and the Combat Infantryman Badge when he and his son, Michael, returned from a trip to Japan to promote understanding and healing with the United States.

A couple of dozen people applauded wildly when the medals were presented to Coon, who was seated in a wheelchair. He lifted his ball cap in recognition, exposing a shock of silver hair.

“I've been blessed to come this far in life,” he said. “I thank the Lord for watching over me.”

Japan's Foreign Ministry said Coon visited the site of the former POW camp in Kosaka next to a now-defunct copper mine where he was put to forced labor. The veteran met the mayor and other officials in Kosaka, in Japan's northern prefecture of Akita.

Coon, who lives in Sapulpa, Okla., served as an infantry machine gunner in the Army. He is a survivor of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines in 1942, when the Japanese military forced tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers to trek for 65 miles with little food or water in blazing heat. As many as 11,000 died on the way.

It's unclear why Coon didn't get his medals sooner, but such occurrences with awards are not uncommon in the military.

“It continues to trouble me that there are instances where service members do not receive the service medals they have earned through the course of their careers,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, whose office contacted the military three weeks ago about the missing medals.

 

 
 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Nation

  1. Pair of NYC officers killed in ambush shooting
  2. Killer of New York police officers angry over Garner chokehold death, officials say
  3. Poor morale, training in Air Force ICBM program spur questions about usefulness as nuclear deterrent
  4. Document hunt to begin for illegals who need proof of residency since 2010 for permit, reprieve
  5. N.Y. reports crime decrease, credits ‘broken windows’
  6. 4 Afghans freed from Guantanamo
  7. Cat saved from California storm drain after 2 weeks
  8. Teenager who attacked California Highway Patrol officer with machete shot, killed
  9. Financial fraudster used investors’ lucre to freeze dead wife, feds contend
  10. Traffic camera use upheld in Ohio
  11. Ghostly snailfish found at record depth
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.