After 20 years, Donald Pruyn of Fontana was finally reunited with medals his father earned while serving in WWII. Corporal Murry Pruyn was posthumously recognized with 11 medals and commendations that include the Bronze Star and World War II Victory medals.
Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) presented the shadow box containing those medals, photos and honorable discharge papers to Donald, his wife Joyce, and sons Todd and Scott via Zoom on Thursday, Sept. 2.
“It’s not everyday that we get an opportunity to pay tribute to an American hero,” Aguilar addressed the family. “We’re here to honor Corporal Pruyn’s service and his legacy, we’re here to recognize the contributions and sacrifices he made… and to honor the family he would come home to raise in Southern California.”
20 years ago Donald learned he was entitled to the medals and placed a request to the Army; his application was approved with a list of medals that would be delivered to him. They never reached the family who had moved residences. Concerned they were lost in transit, Donald tried to reach the person who initially provided assistance, but never heard back.
“I kind of gave up on it… I had said I should call my congressman; it would be easier to get through the bureaucracy to get the medals rather than trying to do it on my own again.”
With encouragement from wife Joyce, Donald placed the call. Three weeks later the medals arrived.
“This is the first time I’ve actually availed myself of constituent services through a congressman’s office… I’m happy about the results, and I thank you and your staff, particularly Matthew (Tovar) for all his good work, to actually get the medals and put them in a display case is going above and beyond the call,” Donald remarked. “This presentation meant the world to my family and me,”
“It’s our honor to help out, and I appreciate you reaching out to us and letting us try to help navigate; that’s our job, and our job is to help you guys and Inland Empire families navigate the process,” expressed Aguilar. “We appreciate being a part of making sure that they’re in the rightful place.”
Mr. Pruyn entered the U.S. Army on March 22, 1943 and assigned to Alpha Company, 58th Armored Infantry Battalion, 8th Armored Division based out of Fort Polk, LA. He served as a Half-Track Driver and held the rank of Corporal Technician Fifth Grade (T/5) at the time of his discharge.
On November 7, 1944 Mr. Pruyn departed from the United States to the European Theater; during World War II he traveled through England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Austria.
Mr. Pruyn participated in battles and/or campaigns in the Ardennes, the Rhineland, and Central Europe. He briefly drove a 2-and-a-half ton truck carrying supplies and equipment to prepare for the crossing of the Rhine River. He was discharged from the Army on February 3, 1946.
“For a veteran to earn so many medals in such a short amount of time really says a lot about how much he did,” Tovar said. “I can only imagine the hardships he would’ve went through being in service at that time [winter]. No easy feat, so I think it’s a lot to be proud of.”
Mr. Pruyn moved back to California after his military service and graduated from Los Angeles Chiropractic College. Murry Pruyn passed away on April 21, 1962 in Long Beach at the age of 45 when Donald was a teenager.
For Todd and Scott Pruyn, who have only heard bits and pieces of their grandfather’s life, the medals are a tangible tribute to his memory.
“It’s fascinating to hear actual stories about his time in the army, all I knew was that he was in the war and drove a Half-Track… so to hear all these things makes him more real to me, and makes me not just proud of him and my family, but sorry that I didn’t know him even more,” noted Todd.
Scott conjectured his grandfather died at a time where his stories would have been passed down to Donald, a teen at the time. “For many years we’ve been very interested in what his experiences were, and it’s also a mystery, we’re getting closer to the solution,” Scott expressed. “I appreciate the work you guys did and the time that you dedicated to helping us solve the mystery, I know it means so much to my dad especially losing his father at that young of an age, to be able to fill out the picture.”