Drafted at the age of 18, Ed Froelich was sent to Washington for basic training, then received medical training in San Diego before being assigned to the U.S.S. Pinkney, a Tryon-class evacuation transport ship in the Pacific Ocean.
Ed participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, one of the largest naval battles in the history of the world. He observed the recapture of the Philippine Islands, witnessed the raising of the U.S. flag on Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima, and watched the Enola Gay depart from Tinian Island to bomb Hiroshima.
As a hospital corpsman, Ed saw some horrific wounds. "At Iwo Jima, there were so many killed," he recalled. "We were trained...that if you came across a Marine with a bullet wound in his chest, you were supposed to hold it together with safety pins...We would try to keep them alive until we could get to the surgeon."
On board the U.S.S. Pinkney, Ed assisted the surgeons. "While they were amputating, the legs were covered in canvas bags. I carried out leg after leg and threw them over the side into the ocean. You could see the sharks swimming."
Ed was wounded on April 28, 1945, while anchored near the Kerama Islands, when a kamikaze pilot hit the ship. "The damn floor buckled, and our chairs and us flew towards the ceiling," he said. "Something hit me in the leg. I don't know if it was a bullet or a chair or what. I was laid up for months over that wound."
Despite being wounded, he helped carry wounded soldiers to the upper deck so they could be evacuated. "We couldn't leave the ship until we got all the patients off," he said. He was treated for thrombophlebitis at the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland.
When the war was over, Ed returned to his hometown of Walker and married his high school sweetheart, Dolores Stroemel, who died on July 13, 2010. After they were married, he worked at a grocery store in Texas, where he was trained as a butcher. He then worked as a butcher in Scott City for a year before returning to Walker to work for Sohio Oil Co. He later moved to Cambridge, Neb., to work in the oil fields before getting a job as a custodian at the local school. Ed and Dolores were blessed with two children, Margie Hawk and Van Froelich.
Through the years, Ed attempted several times to claim the Purple Heart he had earned in the war, but his records had been burned in a fire, which caused him to give up his pursuit. However, his daughter-in-law Darla enlisted the support of Sen. Jerry Moran's staff to secure the recognition he was due.
On Saturday, July 9, 2011 Ed was honored at a reception at which he was presented with his long-overdue Purple Heart. When Sen. Moran handed Ed the medal, he asked him if he wanted to speak in front of the 80-person crowd that filled the chapel. "No, except for thanks," Ed said. "I got it before I died, and that was all I wanted."
"We often complain that there are no heroes in our lives," Sen. Moran said. "Sometimes, we look to the ball fields and basketball courts. Sometimes we look to the rock stars and people in Hollywood, but the reality is that our heroes are with us each and every day. They surround us. "It is a real honor for me to be here to once again pay tribute to, in this case, a hero of that World War II generation, so aptly called the greatest generation."