Cedar Falls woman receives brother's WWII service medals - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cedar Falls woman receives brother's WWII service medals

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -

As many of us honor veterans on Memorial Day, one family is remembering the soldier they lost more than 65 years ago.  And now, the family has a piece of history that will keep their soldier's memory alive.

Mary Runyan walked into her front yard Monday to find a group of family and friends and a National Guard colonel.  They gathered to surprise her with a piece of history:  the service medals of her brother Anthony, who died in 1945 after a two-and-a-half year tour of duty in World War II.

"It means a lot.  It's one of the happiest times in my life.  It's something you always wonder about, and I never really knew until today," Runyan said.

Runyan replaced her brother's tombstone a few years ago, and the old one now sits in her front yard in Cedar Falls.  It's the spot where she was given Anthony's awards, including the European combat theatre, good conduct, and World War II victory medals. 

She remembers how devastating it was to lose her 24-year-old brother to an infection he came down with a few months after returning home from the war.

"It was real hard on all of us.  In fact my mother was so bad she had to have shots every day for I don't know how long.  The doctor would come to our house and give her shots because it was just so hard to believe," said Runyan.

For years, Runyan has told stories about her brother, in an effort to keep his memory alive.  She never dreamed that one day she'd receive his service medals.  It was her son's initiative that made it happen.

"She came across his discharge papers and saw all these battles and things, medals he had won and did not have any of them.  And I knew it bothered her.  And I had a relationship with Colonel Staves and mentioned it to him.  He said 'I think I can help you find those medals.'  So for the last nine months, we've been working on this," Mary's son, Sam Runyan said.

And now this family has quite a treasure to keep their soldier's memory alive for generations to come.

It took the Army a long time to put together enough information to determine what medals should be awarded to the family of Anthony Soteros.  That's because all of his service records were destroyed during a 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.

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