Lost War Medals Reunite Veteran's Families
by Phil McIlrath, KDLT News
November 11, 2013 5:47 PM
In closets, attics and basements of homes across the country, hidden treasures lie untouched, gathering dust.
On Veteran's Day a story of the lost, being found: two Sioux Empire men, who died for our country almost 70 years ago, are now being remembered for their sacrifice. Now, their story is now being told to a whole new generation who never even knew they existed.
The tight rapping of a snare drum and the wavering of our nation's flag mark a homecoming reunion, seven decades in the making.
Over a year ago, Jon Strupp of Minneapolis was introduced, by a fellow commuter on that bus, to some war medals that had been forgotten in a storage facility. A conversation started, and soon he was looking for the family they belonged to.
"I'm just used to the research part and I had to have the answer," said Jon Strupp.
After months of research, he found the rightful owner, Fred Baker, a young man killed in action during World War II in France at just 23 years old. The findings came as a shock to his family members.
"I had no idea what it was all about. It all unfolded so fast,"said Mike Gehrke, the great nephew of Fred Baker
But this story doesn't stop there; Fred was friends with LaVerne Stackhouse.
“They were more like brothers, really,"said Bev Winter.
Bev remembers LaVerne fondly.
“He was very handsome,"said Winter.
They were friends in Sioux Falls and served together in France. LaVerne was killed France, only two weeks after his close friend.
Now, in a way, they're being reunited once again. A year later, the Journey is complete; from a storage facility in Minnesota, returned back to Volga.
Fred and LaVerne both received the Purple Heart and the Silver Star. Those medals, among their other military honors, are being put on display, together, so their story can educate future generations.
“I don't think they would think they were heroes at all, they were just a Band of Brothers," said Gehrke.
"I think it's great, I've noticed in the newspapers that there is more of this going on,"said Winter.
“Us old Veterans, we don't shed tears, we just shed tears in humility, it humbles you, that's one thing about being a veteran, it humbles you,"said Gehrke.
A few notes from a trumpet, a handful of salutes, and a procession of colors, marking the reunion of two friends, and an emotional story of the ultimate sacrifice for generations to come.
If you'd like to view Laverne and Fred's medals or learn more about the men of the Sioux Empire who served our country, you can visit the Brookings County Museum in Volga every day from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.