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Veteran Coy Shaffner honored for service

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Fries man, 94, was prisoner of war in World War II

By Shaina Stockton

FRIES ― U.S. Army veteran Coy Shaffner, 94, had to think for a moment on the exact year he joined the armed forces, but when he was asked how many days he spent as a prisoner of war, he recalled the number instantly: 203 days.

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Shaffner, a life-long resident of Fries, was honored on Veteran’s Day by VFW Post #7726, and given a Quilt of Valor to recognize his service. Town citizens, along with friends and Shaffner’s family members, were present at the Fries Theater for “Coy Shaffner Night,” where he was praised as a notable example of the millions of military veterans who are honored each year.

Mayor Richard Farmer, a member of the VFW post, opened with a statement of thanks to Shaffner and to everyone who has served or is still serving in our military. “We have just gone through one heck of an election; and whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, an independent, nothing at all, or just wished it was all over with… even on our worst days, we are the best country on the face of the planet,” he said.

In a brief address, Post Commander Dan Boyer spoke of the sacrifices and bravery of those who fought during World War II. “Coy Shaffner is an inspiring example of this generation,” he told the crowd.

Born in Max Meadows, Shaffner has lived in Fries throughout his life, aside from his time of service in Europe. When he was 21 years old, he received a draft notice from the government, and entered the army. He received his training in Fort Jackson, S.C.; Camp Gordon, Ga.; and Camp Shanks, N.Y. He served from Feb. 23, 1943 to Jan. 18, 1946, according to the Blue Ridge Veterans database.

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.

“Now, both Coy and I have a little age on us, and memory can sometimes be fuzzy. When I asked Coy what year he entered the Army, he couldn’t say, precisely. But when I asked him how long he was a prisoner of war, he quickly replied, ‘203 days,’” Boyer said.

For his time in service, Shaffner received a number of medals, including 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.

“However, like with many World War II veterans, he did not receive these medals until 69 years later,” Boyer said, referring to a ceremony held in Grayson County more than two years ago. 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 in 2014. Shaffner also rode in the Independence Day parade.

After Shaffner was discharged from his service, he returned to Fries, married, raised six sons and worked in the mill for 39 years.

“Our God is a just god, because he repaid Coy’s youthful war experiences with 94 years, so far. We should be deeply moved, and profoundly grateful, for what Coy and the millions of others who fought for our country have done,” Boyer said.

Carolyn Patton and Barbara Moncrief were present at the ceremony to present Shaffner with the quilt. The mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation is to provide service members and veterans touched by war with hand-stitched quilts. In an address to the audience, it was explained that each part of the quilt has a special meaning: the batting represents comfort and warmth; the backing signifies the support of family and friends; and the stitches represent love, praise and, at times, the tears from the quilter.

When Moncrief spoke with Shaffner about his time spent as a prisoner of war, she was puzzled when he told her that the experience was “pretty good, considering.” When she asked why he would say that, he replied, “I didn’t have to fight anymore.”

Later, she spoke with Shaffner’s son, Darrell, who shared a story he’d heard from his father recalling the day he received a pair of gloves from a German guard while he was on assignment out in the cold. The story of an act of kindness shown by someone unexpected resonated with Moncrief, and she realized that no matter how violent and out of control the world gets, we all still have the capacity to love one another.

“Let’s all learn from this small story that happened so many years ago. We all have the capacity for love and empathy,” she said.

In conclusion of the ceremony, Shaffner was called forward, and the colorful, patriotic quilt was wrapped around him. He extended his hand in a wave with a smile on his face, and expressed his thanks for their gesture.

Pastor John Williams of the Fries Baptist Church led the theater in prayer during the ceremony. Following the presentation, a reception featured light refreshments.