After 16 long years of trying to retrieve her father's medals for his service in World War II, Monroe County resident Doneta Harmon finally got her wish Wednesday morning.
Harmon, 59, and the oldest of her nine siblings, said she had been trying to get the awards since her father, James Edward Jones, passed away in January 1997. The original medals were stolen years ago after Jones returned from combat in 1946, she said.
"Well, one place told me I had to pay for them, and I didn't have the money to pay for them," she said. "Another place denied me or something. And I kept trying, and they sent them from Sweetwater all the way to Athens and then from Athens to Chattanooga, and so that's how it got to be to Chattanooga. Congressman Chuck Fleischmann is the one who helped me."
Harmon said a Fleischmann representative contacted her Oct. 21 about an award ceremony.
"I was tickled pink," she said, laughing. "When I got through talking to them, I said, 'Yay!'"
A number of Monroe County and state officials were on hand to commemorate Harmon's father, including state Reps. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City, John Forgety, R-Athens, Deputy Chief of Staff Robert White, Field Representative for Fleischmann Maxine Gernert, County Mayor Tim Yates and Sweetwater Mayor Doyle Lowe. WWII veteran Clinton Riddle was also there to lend his support.
Forgety said the ceremony "hit home" for him because his father served in WWII as well.
"My father was a World War II veteran and is no longer here, and since I can't do this for him, I appreciate the opportunity to do it for your father," Forgety said.
Jones was presented the Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four Bronze Stars, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation with Germany Clasp, Honorable Service Lapel Button and Combat Infantry Badge.
Fleischmann could not be there because he was in Washington, D.C., but he did take the time to call Harmon.
"I wanted to take some time, first and foremost, to honor your late great father for his service to our nation in World War II," Fleischmann said. "Also, I am so pleased my office was able to get a replacement medals for James Jones. ... This is a tremendous honor and our country is ever so grateful for your dad's service."
Jones served in the U.S. Army for six years as a private, Harmon said. On June 6, 1944, he was one of 160,000 Allied troops that stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, on D-Day. After he was discharged, Jones returned to Tennessee and married Thelma Louise Self, where they had 10 children. Jones worked sawmill jobs to support his family. Harmon said he was a caring father to his children and loving husband to his wife.
"He would talk to his kids, you know, and tell them not to do something," she said. "He'd take patience with his kids. He was an easy, loving father."