Francis 'Franny' Weaver honored with five medals he never received after his service was over in 1946

New Castle resident Francis “Franny” Weaver thought that the ceremony he was attending on Thursday morning was all about his nephew receiving the Bronze Star.

Turns out it was Weaver’s chance to take a long overdue step into the spotlight, too.

After US Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) presented his friend and acquaintance Air Force Maj. David Strawbridge with his award for distinguished service during ground operations in Afghanistan from October 2012 to April 2013, Strawbridge revealed the surprise of a lifetime.

Choking back tears, Strawbridge presented his 88-year-old Uncle Franny with a series of medals from his service during WWII, that Weaver was unable to collect himself after his service was over.

Coons then pinned the five awards – the Good Conduct, American Campaign, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign, World War II Victory, and Philippine Liberation medals – one by one on Weaver’s blazer as a description of each medal was read aloud.

Weaver never received his awards because he was busy with life when the majority of WWII medals were issued in 1947; a fire at the National Archives in 1973 further delayed Weaver official recognition.

“I wanted that slight to be righted,” Strawbridge said.  

Coons’ staff, however, was able to research enough evidence to officially issue Weaver’s medals.

“I expected one or two, I did not expect the ‘bling’ that he’s wearing now,” Strawbridge said of their efforts.

Strawbridge, who is an advocate for Delaware veterans, said he fought for a number of years with the Army administration over his uncle’s medals.

“I was unsuccessful,” Strawbridge said, holding back his emotions as he recounted his efforts. “I reached out to Brendan (Mackie, Coons’ veteran outreach team member) to help me out, and within a month, Senator Coons’ office had all of his WWII medals, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Weaver was at a loss for words at first, dabbing tears from his eyes as his nephew comforted him at the podium.

“This guy here, he’s something else. I love him, I love my whole family,” Weaver eventually managed to say about his nephew before breaking into tears.

After the shock wore off, however, Weaver said it was a big surprise and that he was successfully fooled into thinking the ceremony was only for his nephew.

“I had no idea,” he said. “It’s an honor … I’m very surprised at the whole thing.”

One of the hallmarks of Weaver’s generation, Coons said, is the humility they expressed in returning to their jobs and families so diligently after facing the horrors of combat.

“They simply got about the business of living,” Coons said.

After his service ended, Weaver returned to New Castle, where he’s lived, worked and raised a family ever since.

Strawbridge failed to receive his Bronze Star after his tour was over due to the nature of his mission and unit configuration, Coons said.

The two met on one of Coons’ visits to Kabul, where Strawbridge recognized him as the Delaware senator, while his travel companion, Arizona Senator John McCain, got the lion’s share of the attention.

They kept in touch afterwards, with Coons even sending Strawbridge some Tastycakes, which gave him a chance to introduce members of his platoon to the Butterscotch Krimpet.

Weaver entered into service on May 19, 1944, at Fort Dix, NJ, and trained at Sheppard Field in Texas and in San Francisco.

He served in the Philippines, where three Japanese soldiers surrendered to Weaver and fellow soldier Al Clayton, of New Castle.  His division also oversaw the occupation of Japan after their surrender.

Weaver was ultimately discharged in May of 1946, ending as an Army Technician Fifth Grade.