Walter Pruiksma, a resident of Brick Township, New Jersey, landed on Utah Beach, Normandy, France, in June 1944 and served across France, Belgium and into Germany during the war.
While a private first class, Pruiksma was stationed with the 783rd Military Police Battalion in the French village of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. A French woman was wounded by a grenade, and as infection set in, Pruiksma volunteered to take the woman to a hospital for treatment in the midst of intense fighting between the Americans and Germans. Pruiksma – who also went by “Rookie” – and a fellow military policeman provided armed escort for the woman and her family on a horse-drawn carriage. They travelled during the dark of night while the fighting was still raging.
In 2016, France recognized Pruiksma among 14 other World War II veterans for their service and awarded them the country’s Legion of Honor – its highest recognition. In recognition of his service, the U.S. Army’s Military Police Regiment Association will present Pruiksma with the Order of the Marechaussee. The medallion was officially established in 2000 to recognize exceptional dedication, competence and contribution to Soldiers who served in the Military Police Corps Regiment over an extended period of time. This award recognizes a degree of professionalism, high standards of integrity and morality, and esprit de corps consistent with the long standing history and traditions of the regiment.
The award typically requires a minimum 10 years of service, but this requirement was waived due to Pruiksma’s exceptional service.
In addition to his involvement with the “Mission of Mercy,” Pruiksma’s unit supported the beachhead, controlled traffic, guarded supply dumps and processed prisoners of war. His company was on the beachhead for a total of 57 days without a break. Pruiksma was part of a three-man team that leap frogged across France and into Belgium from one traffic control post to another, arriving in Belgium just in time for the Battle of the Bulge.
The unit’s next major assignment was setting up the Red Ball Express Highway, the famous convoy system responsible for delivery of more than 12,500 tons of supplies from the beaches to the front lines each day from August to November 1944.
Maj. Gen. Phillip M. Churn will present the award to Pruiksma. Churn is the former commanding general of the 200th Military Police Command, in charge of 14,000 Soldiers – mostly military police – across the U.S. Army Reserve. He is currently the assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for reserve matters.
The award ceremony is scheduled to begin at 2:00 p.m. (local time), and is expected to last roughly one hour, at the Manasquan Presbyterian Church located on 16 Virginia Avenue, Manasquan, New Jersey, 08736.