A hero honored
Just two days before his most prized military possessions are to be sold at auction, Wilmer “Brick” Featherstone finally got what was coming to him Friday.
Sixty-one years after he completed a 30-month stint in the U.S. Army, fighting in numerous World War II battles, he received the medals he’d been promised. This Sunday, Brick will say goodbye to much of his military memorabilia in an auction, but his medals will stay with him.
At age 87 and with cancer invading most of his body, the Post Falls resident wants to make sure his possessions are left in good hands. He doesn’t expect to live much longer, and he wants to ensure that his wife of 64 years, 82-year-old Katherine, can live comfortably in his absence.
He says his service in the war wasn’t all that remarkable – he was just doing the job he was paid to do.
“All this stuff is frosting on the cake,” said Featherstone, wearing his military jacket complete with his six new medals, including a Purple Heart with six clusters – the designation he was hit six times.
But the people gathered Friday at the Premier Auction Center in Post Falls to see the awards ceremony knew better.
“For him to survive 30 months in the areas he was…with all those casualties…it’s just really remarkable,” said retired Chief Warrant Officer George Rekow, who served 30 years in the Navy.
Rekow awarded Featherstone six medals and a lapel button during a small ceremony at the auction house.
Featherstone received the American Campaign medal, the National Defense Service medal, the WWII Victory medal, a good conduct medal from the Army, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal, an Honorable Service lapel button and a Purple Heart with six clusters. Six clusters is the equivalent of six purple hearts, Rekow said.
The medals were promised to Featherstone 61 years ago. But, like most soldiers, Rekow said Featherstone was so eager to return home and restart a normal life, he left the military without receiving them.
“This is not unusual,” Rekow said. “I would say there’s probably millions” of veterans who did the same.
Post Falls Mayor Clay Larkin declared Friday “Wilmer Brick Featherstone Purple Heart Day” in Post Falls, and Featherstone will soon have his name added to the Ronald D. Rankin Veterans Memorial Plaza Purple Heart Honor Roll outside the Kootenai County administrative building.
Featherstone approached the auction house a few months ago about helping sell some of his WWII memorabilia, co-owner Ralph Buchheit said. In talking with Featherstone, Buchheit learned the man had never received his medals, so he set out to ensure that happened before Featherstone passed on.
The two contacted the local veterans affairs office, and a few weeks later the medals arrived.
“They got on it because of his health, and they pushed hard. It was a matter of about four weeks. Post Falls has got one of the best veterans offices I’ve ever seen,” Buchheit said.
Despite his age and ailing health, Featherstone engaged the ceremony attendees with his war stories. He showed off four photographs – all of different individuals – and said they came from a German soldier who had been shot in the back by U.S forces and lay dying. The soldier asked Featherstone to mail the photos, which were of himself, his father, his wife and his daughter, to his home in Germany.
“He died before I got his address, so I’ve carried them with me,” Featherstone said.
He will attend Sunday’s auction if he feels up to it, and auction house co-owner Leanne Nichols encourages anyone purchasing his items to take a moment to thank him.
“That would mean the world to him, to know who got his stuff,” Nichols said.
Featherstone said he hopes the items will inspire others.
“Maybe somebody else will get a little kick in the butt and want to do something for their country,” he said. “This is a pretty darn good country, regardless of what you think.”
Items up for bid include one of Featherstone’s most prized possessions, an American flag he bought in the states and carried overseas through his entire tour.
An Italian flag Featherstone said he captured himself in the war is also available for purchase. It’s signed by his fellow soldiers, of which Featherstone is believed to be the last still alive. An image of the flag graced the top of a sheet cake baked for the Featherstones. Another cake had an image of the couple with the words “Thank you Wilmer and Katherine.”
Featherstone remains adamant that he did nothing special.
“I think the guys that are lying over there in the different battlefields, they deserve more than I do,” he said. “They did more than me.”