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Family to get WWI medal 88 years later

Aug. 17, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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WICHITA, KAN. — A Wichita woman and a couple from Augusta have worked to find the family of a World War I soldier awarded the Army’s second-highest honor decades ago.

Patti McDonough was helping her mother go through some of her deceased father’s things in May and when she found a stack of papers that included awards and honors her dad won while serving in the Korean War and as the state commander for Missouri’s American Legion.

The stack also contained note with names and phone numbers attached to an original certificate for a Distinguished Service Cross, The Wichita Eagle reported. The Distinguished Service Cross certificate was awarded in 1925 to a man named Benjamin E. Foust for his heroics during World War I.

“It was sitting very nicely like it was a priority of Dad’s,” McDonough said. “Dad cared for it. He apparently had tried to find its proper place. I wanted to finish that for him.”

The certificate’s citation credits Foust for “extraordinary heroism” on Sept. 29, 1918, during a battle in France, and says Foust refused to be evacuated after one of his eyes was shot out and “continued to dress the wounds of his comrades, until a heavy concentration of gas so affected his wounded eye that he was forced to go to the rear. His work was the means of saving the lives of many of his comrades.”

McDonough began searching for Foust’s family, and eventually found Gary Rogers, commander of the American Legion Post in Augusta. He and his wife, Myrna, started helping as well.

“We hit some dead ends,” Gary Rogers said. “But the more we dug into it, the more encouraged we got.”

They found that Foust had never married and his closest living relative is a niece, 93-year-old Lola Johnson, who lives on a farm in Cass County, Mo., with her son Gerald and his family. Known as Uncle Edgar or Uncle Ben, Foust died at the age of 87 in 1964 and is buried in Cass County.

Gerald Johnson said he and his mother didn’t even know Foust had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. His great-uncle didn’t receive his Purple Heart medal until he was in his 80s, he said.

“We had no idea about this,” Gerald Johnson said. “I think it’s an important deal.”

The Rogers had the certificate framed and plan to give it to Johnson along with a notebook detailing some history of Foust’s family and military unit.

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