Riley 3HANSON, Ky. (7/11/18) — It was a routine day for U.S. Army World War II POW Dudley Riley — so he thought — as he walked down the hallway at the Joseph “Eddie” Ballard Western Kentucky Veterans Center this morning.

He did not expect to enter into a roomful of visitors while patriotic music was played during his surprise Purple Heart Medal presentation.

The veteran’s eyes lit up and the people applauded. Three of his children, Pam Henderson, Mike Riley and Phyllis Caldwell and wife, Ruth, along with several nieces, nephews and grandchildren were among the gathering. American Legion Post 6 Honor Guard presented the nation’s colors.

The Dawson Springs native smiled, saying to his family, “I really can’t believe this is happening.”

The family said Riley thought he was going to Greenville for therapy today, and the celebration was a total surprise.

Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner, Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Adams III, pinned the medal onto Riley’s decorative vest.

“Dudley, when you woke up this morning, you didn’t think you were going to have this kind of party, did you?" Adams said as Riley entered the room. ”This is a day of recognition for a true American hero.”

After his military service, Riley continued to serve at the national level, Adams remarked.

“One of the things the military failed to do is recognize an action while you were a prisoner of war,” the general said … “he was never recognized with this Purple Heart.”

Riley 2

Adams said after the ceremony that local Veteran Benefits Representative Johnny Allen was instrumental in processing the Purple Heart award for Riley. The Purple Heart can only be awarded to those injured by opposing armed forces during service in the U.S. military. Many soldiers were injured and his information got lost in the shuffle.

“He’s a good soldier,” Adams said.

Riley noted his wife listened in on several war stories exchanged among other POWs at previous national conventions that led her to purchase a tape recorder for him, which was the first step toward him penning his book in 2005, titled, “Farm Boy, Soldier, Daddy — The Journey that Led Him to Where He is Today.”

“I started talking, and she said I haven’t stopped,” Riley told the crowd.

Dudley 1

HIs children said their father’s feet froze during marches while being held prisoner, and was not provided with any shoes to wear. The damage has had a lasting effect. Growing up, his children also mentioned their father never spoke about his experience as a POW.

Riley’s service:

In 1940, Riley, a young man from Hopkins County, volunteered for service in the U.S. Army. On Feb. 17, 1943, he was captured by Gen. Erwin “Desert Fox” Rommels’ forces in North Africa, and was transferred to a German prison camp near Berlin, where he was held in captivity for two and a half years. He was released April 26, 1945.

Staff Sgt. Riley remained active after his honorable discharge from the Army in addressing veterans’ issues. He served as Chapter Commander for the Western Kentucky Chapter of American Ex-Prisoners of War, State Commander for Kentucky and National Director of the American Ex-Prisoners of War, East Central Region and other titles. He continues to serve as Dawson Springs VFW Post Commander. A bridge over the Tradewater River was named after Riley in 2004.

Doreen Dennis
SurfKY News Director
Region 2

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