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Charles Lydian Sr. served three years as a general service engineer in World War II, building roads and supplying ammunition, regularly in a combat zone. Yet for all his service, Lydian’s children say he didn’t talk much about the war when he talked about his experience.
“He just talked about the good parts. He didn’t talk about the battles or anything that had to do with the war. Every once in a while he would talk about the planes flying over, and they were the Tuskegee Airmen, and he didn’t even know who they were until he got back,” said Mike Lydian, son of Charles Lydian.
Virginia Livers, Charles Lydian’s daughter, remembers some of the light-hearted stories her father told, particularly from when he was stationed in France.
“When they went to a pub or something … he would take his chocolate candy and that’s how he would get a beer,” she said.
He also picked up French along the way.
“Every once in a while he would speak French to us like we knew what he was talking about,” Virginia smiled.
Monday evening, Mike Lydian accepted six medals on his father’s behalf, five-and-a-half months after Charles Lydian passed away at age 92.
Mike Lydian knew his father had earned at least one recognition for the years he served; he remembers seeing his dad’s Good Conduct Ribbon as a child.
“He had it on one of his World War II hats and I asked him, ‘Daddy, what was this for?’ … He said, ‘Oh, that was just something they gave me.”
Charles Lydian was too modest, Mike said, to tell his son about the rest: a European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, an American Campaign Medal, a World War II Victory Medal and an Honorable Service Lapel Pin.
U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie presented these to Mike Lydian Monday at Bardstown City Hall alongside Bardstown Mayor Bill Sheckles and Abraham Lincoln American Legion Post 167 Commander Gregory Rogers.
Livers looked on, alongside Charles Lydian’s daughter Margaret Smith, daughter Geraldine Calbert, grandson James Smith Jr., granddaughter Crystal Lydian Williams, and great-granddaughter Makya Mudd, 8.
Mike Lydian first requested the medals from the Veterans Administration a year ago, but they responded that, because a fire in St. Louis had destroyed a number of records in 1973, they had no information on Lydian’s awards.
“Then, after he died, someone told me about Congressman Guthrie to see if he could help me,” Mike said. “We didn’t know that he had the two Bronze Stars until after he died.”
Mike Lydian was thrilled to have the awards placed in his hands at last.
“I’m just so happy that Congressman Guthrie took this and got these for me, and it made it extra special him taking the time out of his busy schedule to present them to the family,” he said. “For me to have them in my possession is just a great honor.”
Though Charles Lydian spoke to his children little about the challenges of war, Mike Lydian said being in the military made a clear impact on his father as a person.
“He was a disciplinarian. He was very strict on all of us, and I believe that that had to do with the military,” Mike said. “He would always go to bed really early and up early ever since I can remember. And (he was) a religious man — he also, I guess, thanked God every day for (letting) him go over there and come back.”
Charles Lydian was dedicated to the American Legion, Mike added.
“He really loved American Legion. He would always say that’s one place where veterans can go to talk to other veterans,” Mike said.
Although his father’s experience didn’t necessarily influence Mike Lydian’s choice to join the Navy, he said his four years in the service brought him closer to his father.
“I’m a member of the Marion County Veterans Honor Guard, and he went to most of the veterans’ funerals with me,” Mike said. “He made so many that they made him an honorary member.”
Receiving these medals now is meaningful for Charles Lydian’s family, yet Mike Lydian said that for his father, honors and awards weren’t the point — more important was the reason he served.
“If he did something, he did it from his heart, not for any glory.”