ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Better late than never-even if the wait is 60 years.
With a gathering of some 50 family members, friends and veterans looking on, Clarence Weyand of Canton finally was awarded the medals he earned in World War II but had never received.
Now 91 years old and in a wheelchair, the former school custodian sat stoically as Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and members of Weyand’s family presented him with eight medals during a brief gathering in the reception area of Shiloh Manor in Canton on Thursday morning.
“Nothing gives me more pleasure than honoring the veterans who gave us the freedom we enjoy today,” said Moran, who was in Kansas for the state fair. “No one do I respect more than our veterans-except maybe those who serve our veterans.”
The latter comment could well have included the American Legion Riders of Canton, who spearheaded the effort to see Weyand receive his medals.
Karen Schulz, secretary-treasurer of the organization, found out about the government’s oversight while chatting to Weyand’s wife, Mildred, during a Legion Auxiliary gathering.
“She happened to mention that he hadn’t even gotten his medals yet from World War II,” Schulz said. “I didn’t talk much with her about it then, but I told my husband about it. We thought that would be a perfect project for the Legion Riders.”
In the process, Schulz learned more and more about Weyand’s remarkable story.
“I knew he had fought in the Battle of the Bulge, but when they said he was a gunner, I’m kind of like, ‘OK ,whatever.’ It didn’t really hit me that he was on a tank.”
The Battle of the Bulge was the last major German offensive during World War II. It started Dec. 16, 1944, in the Ardennes Forest on the German-Belgium border.
“I guess our tanks back in those days weren’t very good-it got shot,” Schulz said. “I’ve been told by different people-but not from Clarence, because I don’t think he’ll even talk about it much-that when his tank was hit, he was ejected and got his teeth knocked out.”
Separated from his unit, Weyand and his crewmates hid in haystacks during the day and tried to find their way back by night.
“They actually wondered into Belgium because they had no idea where they were,” Schulz said. “A Belgium farmer let them stay in his barn and fed them-risking the lives of his whole family for doing that.”
Eventually, the farmer led them back to their line.
“Their missing-in-action papers were already being prepared to send out, so they were given their own missing-in-action papers,” Schulz said.
“His brother tells me that before Clarence went into the Battle of the Bulge, he would write him and say, ‘We’re so tired of waiting for some action, we want some action.’ And they got it.
“His unit actually was responsible for taking out the bridge on the Rhine River as well,” Schulz added. “So he really did see quite a bit.”
For his heroism and service, Weyand was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze service stars, World War II Victory Medal, World War II Honorable Service Lapel Button and a Sharpshooter Badge with Carbine bar.
Schulz she doesn’t know why Weyand didn’t receive his medals in a more timely manner.
“No one really knows,” she said. “I know a lot of guys from that era won’t talk about it. I think he’s a pretty humble person and he just figured, whatever.”
In addition to helping Weyand secure his medals, the American Legion Riders are also seeking additional financial assistance for him.
“We did get his meds taken care of now,” she said. “We’re going to work a little harder and get a little more money for him.”
Schulz said she was pleased with the medals presentation at Shiloh Manor.
“I thought it was wonderful,” she said. “I think Jerry Moran does a wonderful job. And it was really nice that the whole family could be there.
“It’s great to be able to help someone who otherwise would have sat back and never gotten it,” Schulz said.