WWII veteran finally receives Purple Heart

Stanley Sones’ smile was about 70 years in the making.

He sat, gleaming with pride Wednesday afternoon, in a chair at the Lycoming County office of Veterans Affairs.

The Hughesville man had just been awarded a Purple Heart for a wound he suffered on the front lines as a U.S. Army soldier in France during World War II.

It happened in a foxhole. Sones and two other soldiers were taking shelter from enemy fire when shrapnel nearly cost him a limb.

As a result, he was held up in a military hospital for almost a year, fighting to keep a leg that doctors wanted to amputate. After several surgeries and skin grafts, he recovered. But the men with whom he’d shared the foxhole did not. In fact, they never made it out.

Now, at 90 years old, Sones wears a brace on his right leg and walks 3 miles a day, according to his daughter, Edie Perritt.

“He proudly bears that apparatus as a constant reminder that he is and always will be ‘Army Strong,’ ” Perritt said during Wednesday’s ceremony.

She said her father almost never spoke about his war experiences when she was a child growing up with her brother, Dwayne.

But her son and husband both are Army veterans and when the former returned home from a tour in Iraq, it prompted her to ask more questions of her father.

That’s when she found out he never had received a Purple Heart medal, the military decoration for American soldiers who are wounded or killed in action due to enemy fire.

“He was under the understanding that his Purple Heart wouldn’t be awarded until his death,” she said.

She knew immediately that he was mistaken and soon contacted George Heiges Jr., director of the local Veterans Affairs office.

Heiges then reached out to U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Cogan Station, about two months ago to move the process along as quickly as possible.

“It’s an honor to be a part of this and to have contacts that can make this happen,” Heiges said.

He attributed the delay to the hectic nature of World War II, adding that modern methods of communication and recordkeeping help prevent such oversights.

On Wednesday, as Marino pinned the medal on Sones, the congressman said, “If it weren’t for military veterans, we wouldn’t be here to be able to do this today.”

According to his daughter, Sones was born near Millville and worked as a laborer for most of his adult life. Now, he is an avid gardener.

“He loves people and he loves his community,” Perritt said.