Walter “Rookie” Pruiksma, 95 of Brick, was presented with the Silver Marechausse Award for his heroic actions as a Military Police Officer in France and Belgium during World War II, during a moving ceremony at his church, Manasquan Presbyterian on Saturday afternoon October 13.
Major General Phillip M. Churn, Sr., Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for Reserve Matters, approved Puriksma’s receiving the award and was on hand in Manasquan to present to medal. Congressman Chris Smith attended at the request of the Pruiksma family and presented the heroic great grandfather with of United States Flag that has flown over the U. S. Capitol.
The Order of the Marechaussee was officially established in 2000 by the Military Police Regimental Association to recognize exceptional dedication, competence, and contribution to the Military Police Corps Regiment over an extended period of time. The award was created with Gold, Silver, and Bronze levels of recognition. The first Marechaussee awards were presented on September 29, 2000 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. As of 15 October 2018, there have been 10 Orders of the Marechaussee in Gold awarded to date along with 312 in Silver and 2,369 in Bronze.
The Military Police Regimental Association’s mission is to promote the history and preserve the traditions of the Military Police Corps Regiment while supporting Military Police leadership, Soldiers, and Families Army-wide. 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 our Regiment.
According to MPRA’s recognition:
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.
The ceremony attended by Pruiksma’s family, friends and members of the Manasquan Presbyterian congregation included opening remarks and a closing prayer by Senior Pastor Reverend Jim Dunson, a thought provoking talk by Al Schobel, “What do you think and what does it mean?” about the Pledge of Allegiance, and the singing of God Bless America by the church’s Men’s Choir and the honoree sharing his story and love of family and country.