WATERTOWN — Making Arthur Feather speechless is rare for a man who’s been in broadcasting most of his life, but surprising him with a medal he earned 60 years ago but never received did just that Saturday afternoon.
Around 100 people attended an armed forces presentation at the Watertown Elks Lodge No. 496. Only a few people were in on the surprise. The Watertown man would finally be receiving the United States Air Force Good Conduct Medal for his service from April 1956 to September 1962. Mr. Feather couldn’t make the assembly where they had distributed the medals because he was building telephone lines in Morocco at the time.
Jeff Dawley, who spent 42 years in the United States Army, retiring in 2016 with the rank of master sergeant, had the idea to organize the award presentation for Mr. Feather. He spent three months applying and then waiting for the Air Force to review it.
“Dealing with anything like this, you really have to have patience,” Mr. Dawley said. “But he deserves it. He’s a heck of a man.”
United States Air Force Capt. Christian J. Sturick was one of two officers there to present Mr. Feather with the award. Mr. Sturick said two things he gets to do as captain are promote people and recognize people for a job well done. And he said one of the Air Force’s mottos is “we fix nightmares.”
“We’re here to fix something today,” he said before calling Mr. Feather to the stage and pinning his shirt with the medal. “We’re very proud of you, sir. We’re happy to present you with this award. Long overdue.”
Maj. Melissa Forsyth, the other Air Force officer, provided background on Mr. Feather. She said he was in the Communications Construction Squadron, helping build radio towers instrumental to creating signals in Europe. She said Mr. Feather’s rank was Airman Second Class, which doesn’t exist today.
“That was something I had to look into a little bit,” she said. “It’s called Airman First Class now, so you’re no longer second class. You’re first class.”
Robert W. Briscoe, the esteemed lecturing knight at the lodge, reiterated Ms. Forsyth’s comment.
“I want you to know that in the eyes of all of us you’ve always been first class,” Mr. Briscoe said to Mr. Feather.
Mr. Feather, 82, said he had no idea he would receive the medal. He said he was overwhelmed after the presentation.
“The years have gone by,” Mr. Feather said, “and I thought about it and wondered ‘well it’s on my records but the physical medal would be awfully nice.’”
He said most of his family members have served in the military, dating back to his fifth great-grandfather.
“It’s been a duty that you should serve for a greater good, a greater need,” he said. “It’s hard to express how I’m feeling now. It’s not a finality. It’s something I earned. I’m proud to have it.”
He then turned the conversation to his fellow veterans and servicemen and women at the Elks Lodge on Saturday.
“I look around this room and I see all these people, and I think ‘if not for what these people have done, I doubt we would really be living the lifestyle we do today,’” he said. “If you walk around and talk to anyone of these gentlemen or ladies here, they would always still tell you our oath of enlistment has no expiration date.”