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FRIES — This year, during Independence Day celebrations in Grayson County, a World War II veteran and former prisoner of war from Fries received the medals he’d earned nearly 70 years ago.
The towns of Independence and Fries each held celebrations to commend and honor Coy Shaffner on July 4. Shaffner was invited to ride in both the Independence and Fries parades, and ceremonies were scheduled to follow both parades, in which Shaffner was honored with his medals and ribbon board.
When he was at war, Shaffner and 200 of his comrades were captured and held in a POW camp in Parchia, Germany. They were rescued by Russian forces 203 days later.
Shaffner’s unit was attached to Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army.
Many commented at the events that the presentation of Shaffner’s medals was a long time coming. But to Shaffner, coming home was reward enough after being freed from capture. He didn’t wait around for the medals.
Last year, however, the interest in Shaffner’s medals resurfaced after Shaffner met Vietnam veteran Emmett Bowers, a member of the VFW post in Sparta, N.C., at the dedication of the POW/MIA section of the Blue Ridge Veterans Memorial in Galax.
When Bowers learned that Shaffner had never received his medals, he took matters into his own hands, and obtained the medals thanks to “an act of Congress.” The medals included the Bronze Star, Prisoner of War, Good Conduct, American Campaign, African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award, Expert Infantryman Badge, Honorable Service lapel pin, Ruptured Duck and a Marksman Badge with rifle bar.
The brotherhood of the VFW posts in Independence and Sparta, N.C., presented the medals and ribbons to Shaffner during the Fourth of July flag ceremony at the Historic 1908 Courthouse in Independence. From there, Shaffner rode on a float for local veterans during the town’s parade.
Later that afternoon, the group returned to Fries, where he rode in the town parade, and received the medals as part of a ceremony planned with the town. The stage was not set up in time for the ceremony, so Bowers presented the medals in the stands at the ball park.
“If you haven’t been over to look at [Shaffner’s] medals, or speak to him today, ladies and gentlemen, there stands a hero,” Bowers said as he pointed to Shaffner. The crowd gathered cheered as Grayson VFW Post Commander Dan Boyer handed him the medals, and Bowers pinned the ribbons to his chest.
Shaffner asked the crowd to thank Bowers, the Sparta VFW and the Independence VFW for all they had done to make the day’s events possible.