CADILLAC — One set stolen, another burned.

They're home where they belong now.

How does it feel?

"A little more complete," said Shelly Bigelow, granddaughter of a WWII veteran, the late Albert Zane "Bob" Ellison.

For most of his post-war service, Ellison didn't even know he was entitled to service medals. Bigelow applied for them, worrying they wouldn't come before he died. They did, but only just. Ellison passed just a few weeks after his service medals arrived in the mail in 2008.

Then Bigelow's home near Manton burned down, and the medals were lost.

Thursday morning, service medals her beloved grandfather had earned were back in Bigelow's possession.

Congressman John Moolenaar, R-Midland, presented the medals to Bigelow during a ceremony at the Veterans Serving Veterans food bank in Cadillac.

"Shelly, I don't need to tell you, but your father was a patriot," Moolenaar said, as he referred to Ellison's military service, participation in the building of Stanwood Elementary School and agricultural efforts.

Moolenar presented Ellison's Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign medal, World War II Victory Medal, Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII and Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar to Bigelow.

Vietnam veteran Duane Briggs of Manton also lost his service medals unexpectedly.

Somebody stole them from his home while he was in the process of moving in 2004, he said.

"I know I don't have a lot," said Briggs, referring to the prestigious Purple Heart medal, which he does not have (it's for service members who are hurt in combat).

"It was the fact somebody would be low enough to take those things," he said, choking up. "It's hard to talk about."

Briggs, who had a heart attack earlier this month, is active at the veterans park, where he planted more than 2,000 trees.

Moolenaar presented Briggs with the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with Bronze star attachment, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon with Device (1960) and Vietnam Commemoration Pin.

The congressman told the crowd assembled, which included many members of Briggs' family as well as local veterans, that the Good Conduct Medal is an important one that is only awarded after the recommendation of an immediate commander.

"It's a tremendous honor and I'm proud to present it to Duane today," Moolenaar said.

The congressman and State Rep. Michele Hoitenga, R-Manton, had one more message for Briggs.

Vietnam veterans were often mistreated when they returned from the war, something Moolenaar and Hoitenga both said they try to correct now.

"I also want to say, 'Welcome home,'" Moolenaar said.

Cadillac News