WANATAH | Doug Stonebraker says that obtaining the military medals his late father James Stonebraker earned during service in WWII was tough, especially since his dad never talked about the war and his military records were burned.
But after years of research led by Doug and his brother Larry Stonebraker, and thanks to the help of Sen. Joe Donnelly and his staff, those medals finally havebeen awarded and the Stonebraker family is proud of their patriarch.
“My dad passed away in 1993. He would never talk about World War II," said Doug Stonebraker. "I knew my dad saw action in the Battle of the Bulge but I didn’t know much else. I remember asking him several times if he’d take me to a war movie and his response was always the same. He’d already seen it. He never told his story.”
“But then I found a box with his infantry patches, a small medal, and a basic training manual. It started me on my path to research, but I never had enough paperwork,” Doug Stonebraker said, noting that the 1973 fire at the National Archives in St. Louis, which destroyed millions of records, made the search even harder.
When Doug and his sister discovered their father’s discharge papers in their mother’s file cabinet, that find really set the ball in motion.
“I called Senator Joe Donnelly’s staff and they put me on the right path to getting the paperwork needed. About a month later, on June 21st, I went out to my mailbox and there were all of his medals he was eligible for. At the end of August, Senator Donnelly came by my business, Lone Pine Liquors in Wanatah, because I wanted to shake his hand. The senator was very gracious. Thanks to him and his staff, it’s a proud day for our family and I know my dad is looking down on us and is very proud too,” he said.
Doug Stonebraker said that it would have been nice if his father would have lived to receive the medals himself, or could have visited the memorial in Washington, D.C., but the recognition is important for the Stonebraker family.
“It finally comes full circle and now I realize why he was like he was, and why he did what he did. I know he suffered greatly but it wasn’t talked about back then. I always was proud of him and when you’re a kid growing up in the '50s and '60s I was always looking for a role model. Little did I know he was in my own house,” he said.
James Stonebraker, who served honorably in the Army during World War II, posthumously received the Bronze Star Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze service stars, World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award, Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII and Expert Badge with Rifle Bar.
“I was glad to help Doug obtain these awards and medals in recognition of his father’s remarkable military service,” said Donnelly in a written statement. “Our nation is deeply grateful to Mr. Stonebraker and all our veterans for their sacrifices and dedication to defending our nation. I encourage all veterans in Indiana who need help receiving the medals they earned or are experiencing problems with their veterans’ benefits to contact my office. I stand ready to help you.”