Seven decades later, veteran receives his medals

OPPENHEIM-Nearly 70 years ago, Allen Youker Sr. served in a war that spread over three continents and changed the world.

On Saturday, Youker finally received his medals for his service.

At a small family function at his home on Youker-Gray Road in Oppenheim, the Army veteran was awarded several medals, including a Purple Heart, for his service in the European Front during World War II.

Fort Plain Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 3275 Cmdr. Bob Slater, along with other representatives of the organization, presented the 91-year-old veteran with his medals, which included a Purple Heart, a World War II Campaign Medal, the European-African Campaign Ribbon and a marksmen medal.

The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the armed forces who were wounded by the enemy.

Youker said he fought in the Battle of the Bulge, a major German offensive campaign launched through the forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in Belgium, France, and Luxembourg on the Western Front toward the end of World War II. He also served as the Allies began to push into Germany.

Youker was drafted in 1943, serving as a private in the Army’s 35th Infantry. After training at Camp Wheeler in Georgia, Youker was shipped out.

“Five weeks training and away I went,” Youker said.

According to Youker, he was wounded twice in the war. First, during the Battle of the Bulge, an artillery shell went off near him, sending him flying back and giving him a concussion.

“The shell blew me I don’t know how many feet,” he said.

The second time, he suffered frostbite on his toes during the Allied advance into the Rhine, a river going through Germany and much of Europe.

His son Allen Youker Jr. said Youker Sr. was awarded the medals at the end of his service during World War II, but he never picked up the medals because he wanted to go home.

“The war was over and everybody wanted to go home,” Youker Jr. said.

Sharon Youker, Youker’s daughter-in-law, said the family had asked him for years if he wanted to receive the medals, but he had always declined.

In April, Allen Youker decided he finally wanted the medals.

Sharon Youker said she went to the Herkimer County Veterans Service Agency, which agreed to help her. She said the veterans agency submitted the required paperwork to obtain the medals and the government mailed the medals to the Herkimer agency in September.

The family then arranged for the VFW?post to conduct Saturday’s ceremony.

Youker Jr. said his father never was talkative about the war, only sharing his fond memories of that period in his life, including stories about fishing in a European lake with hand grenades and hunting deer in the forests.

Youker Jr. said his father seldom talked about where he fought or what he saw in war.

“A lot of the details he never discussed,” Youker Jr. said.

Youker Jr. said his father held several jobs around the area after the war.

The jobs included construction work at the Daniel Green Shoe Co. in Dolgeville.

Youker Jr. said he was happy to see his father finally receive his medals.

“It is a long time coming,” Youker Jr. said.

His father said he appreciates now having the medals.

“[I feel] much the same as before,” he said Saturday after receiving them.

Arthur Cleveland covers rural Fulton County. He can be reached