New Madrid WWII veteran, 99, finally presented with medals
NEW MADRID, Mo. — Less than 20 days before his 100th birthday, George “Bud” Hartwell received the gift of a lifetime.
The 99-year-old World War II veteran was presented with the World War II Victory Medal and Honorable Service Lapel Button by U.S. Rep. Jason Smith Thursday at the American Legion Hall in New Madrid.
Born Sept. 17, 1918, in Hayti, Hartwell joined the United States Army in 1942 as an airplane and engine mechanic and technical instructor. He was stationed in Lincoln, Neb., and Chanute Field, Ill. When he was discharged from the army in December 1945, he held the rank of corporal but never received a proper medal ceremony in the haste to bring soldiers home.
“This is pretty special,” Smith said to Hartwell as he stood next to him and presented him with the two different medals.
Hartwell smiled, took the medals and said: “Thank you.”
“It’s an honor,” Smith said to Hartwell.
After posing for several pictures with Smith and his family, Hartwell and guests enjoyed some cake.
On hand for the occasion were about 15 family members, friends and veterans.
It was April when Hartwell’s stepdaughter, Paula Meyer of New Madrid, learned he’d never received his medals while trying to prove Hartwell was honorably discharged from the military.
“We were just looking into nursing home options through Veterans Affairs, and we learned his records were destroyed by a fire years ago,” Meyer said.
So Meyer contacted Smith’s office in Cape Girardeau, where she began working with Debbie Griffin, constituent services specialist for Smith, trying to piece together Hartwell’s military history.
“We were able to recreate a file of his records to prove that he was honorably discharged from the military,” Griffin said.
Through the research, both Meyer and Smith’s staff wanted to show their respect and appreciation for Hartwell’s service and decided to present him with the medals he earned years ago.
Hartwell grew up in Lavalle near Parma and moved to New Madrid when he was about 16 years old. He later started his own gas company and had other successful ventures such as a furniture store, building small sheds and rental property.
His first wife, Cleona, and son, Michael, passed away and Hartwell married Meyer’s mother, Mildred Halford, who died in 2011.
On Thursday Larry Maxwell, finance officer, and Mickey Abner, vice commander, of the Legion in New Madrid said they were proud to be present for Hartwell receiving his medals.
“It’s great they’re recognizing him for his service,” Maxwell said.
World War II veteran Albert Edwards, 91, of New Madrid was also present for the occasion. At Smith’s request, Edwards happily posed with Smith and Hartwell for photos.
Edwards said he was happy to witness his friend receive the medals he’d earned so many years ago.
“I’m glad he’s getting them,” Edwards said. “t’s an honor to have them.”