Letters to the Editor

Thank you, Rep. Linda Kochmar, for listening | Letter

Rep. Linda Kochmar - Contributed photo
Rep. Linda Kochmar
— image credit: Contributed photo

Several years ago we began a quest to receive a newly-issued prisoner of war medal for my good friend’s father, James R. Hayden. His story is an amazing one.

At 19 years old, when James was fighting in World War II, he entered a tunnel and the enemy threw a hand grenade at him, destroying his rifle. James then left and retrieved a new rifle and re-entered the tunnel and killed two, injured four and captured 12 prisoners. For this gallant effort, he did receive the Silver Star Citation. (By today’s standards, we felt he should receive a Medal of Honor.)

He later went on to be shot in the leg, but still managed to enter into the Korean War where he was captured and held as a prisoner of war for almost three years. His family did not know for certain whether he was dead or alive the entire time.

When I found out that the Army had released a brand new medal honoring prisoners of war, I decided to apply for it in his name. We sent in all the correct information, only to receive a letter six months later stating because of a big fire that destroyed all the military records years ago, they could find no proof that James R. Hayden was indeed a prisoner of war.

Our duty now was to write to obtain other types of records that would prove this fact. Our mission to obtain this medal turned into a two year project and we still came up empty-handed.

I was about to give up and one day I was at one of Rep. Linda Kochmar’s Friday afternoon coffee meetings to discuss concerns and issues. I explained the prisoner of war medal issue and also explained that in talking with James, I found out he never received his Korean War medal. When Linda heard all that we had gone through, she asked me to get her all the information. Linda and her legislative assistant Joe Atkinson began immediately working on this issue. In less than two months, they got results.

Today, I received a phone call from Congressman Adam Smith’s office stating they have received the Korean War medal and are expecting the prisoner of war medal very soon.

We are waiting now for the formal presentation of these medals to this true American hero. James is now 88 years old and his health is beginning to fail, so we are very excited for this to happen soon.

I would like to extend sincere gratitude to Rep. Linda Kochmar for her invaluable assistance in obtaining both the Korean War and the prisoner of war medals that were well deserved. Without her invaluable assistance with this effort, one of our nation’s World War II and Korean War heroes would go unrecognized for his valor and bravery in both wars. Thank you, Linda for your hard work and determination on behalf of James R. Hayden.

It is a fact that we are now losing all of our World War II veterans at an alarming rate. Knowing that, it is fantastic news to know we can present these medals before James is gone.

As an extra note, Atkinson told me that he has not yet given up on obtaining a Medal of Honor for James. That dedication to this effort is admirable.

Thank you for listening. It is great to know we have the right people in office.

Ken Donner, Federal Way, Belmor Park


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