A retired Miami-Dade County park manager and World War II veteran who spent months in a German POW camp finally will be awarded the medals he earned almost 70 years ago.
“When I was discharged from the Army, they said I was entitled to some things,” said Jesse Hughes, 94. “But I let that part of my life go by and didn’t get to thinking about it, except for the memories.”
Hughes joined the Army in 1941, fighting on D-Day as a radio operator assigned to the 73rd Field Artillery Battalion, 9th Armored Division.
He was captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge on Dec. 18, 1944, and held as a POW for about four months before British soldiers liberated the camp, according to Army records.
When Hughes was honorably discharged in 1945, he knew he’d qualified for some medals – including the POW Medal – but didn’t try to get them.
“It didn’t bother me,” said Hughes, now a resident of Citrus County on Florida’s Gulf coast. “I didn’t have a career with the Army. I served my time, and I got out.”
Hughes worked for the Dade County Parks and Recreation Department until his retirement in 1980, and didn’t spend much time thinking about war medals.
But when he told his granddaughter Alison Porter and her husband Jeff about his experiences in the war, they started doing some research.
Jeff Porter realized Hughes qualified for numerous awards he’d never received, and he wrote the Army.
They responded, mailing Hughes his medals and setting up an award ceremony.
Col. Barry Bort, operations officer with the 143rd Sustainment Command based in Orlando, will present Hughes with his medals at a 10:30 a.m. ceremony Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Wall in Jacksonville.
“I’m absolutely honored to be a part of it,” said Bort. “It’s a fantastic opportunity. It’s the right way to honor our veterans.”
Hughes will be awarded the POW Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern campaign medal, the World War II Victory Medal and the Honorable Service Lapel Button, WWII.