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Remembering Veterans – One Family’s Legacy

By Ron Montonye - Pierce County Veterans Service Officer | Dec 19, 2020

Richard Morris Monger was born in Rugby on June 14, 1919. He attended the local schools, graduating from Rugby High School in 1937. On May 12, 1941, Richard was inducted into the U.S. Army and assigned to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. Early in 1942 he was transferred to the medical detachment of the 162nd Infantry. Later in 1942 he went with this division to Australia and about a year later went to New Guinea. On July 30, 1943, Richard was killed in action while he was administering aid to a fallen comrade. His remains were initially interred in New Guinea in the United States Armed Forces Cemetery, Finschhafen. His body was later returned to the United States and reinterred at Priscilla Watts Cemetery in Rugby. Private Monger was the first man from the city of Rugby to lose his life in action during World War II. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Silver Star “For gallantry in action at ***,***, New Guinea on 30 July 1943.” The Silver Star is the third highest medal for heroism, just below the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross.

Donald Leroy Monger, younger brother of Richard, was born on September 24, 1922 in Rugby. Donnie died at the age of 90 on June 10, 2013. On October 22, 1940, he left high school and enlisted in the North Dakota National Guard and served with the WWII distinguished Co. D of the 164th Infantry. Because Donnie left high school early, he was unable to complete his high school education. However, on September 11, 2001, he received an honorary diploma from Rugby High School. While serving with Co. D of the 164th Infantry Division, he was engaged in action in the South Pacific Theatre. He experienced combat action in Guadalcanal and the Northern Solomon’s Campaigns. Donald was the recipient of the Purple Heart for wounds inflicted during these battles. On June 12, 1945, PFC Donald Monger was honorably discharged from the Army. In addition to the Purple Heart, PFC Monger earned the Combat Infantry Badge, the Presidential Unit Citation w/Star, the Asiatic Pacific Theatre Campaign Medal, the Bronze Star, the American Defense Service Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the WWII Victory Medal, and the American Campaign Medal. After honorably serving his country, Donnie continued to serve his community and his fellow veterans throughout his life. He was an active member of the Rugby American Legion for 60 years. Donnie was also a life-long supporter of the WWII Co. D, 164th Infantry veterans. He attended many anniversary reunions of his unit and helped organize the reunions that were held in Rugby. PFC Donald Monger now lies in eternal rest at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery in Mandan.

Donald Monger also had a brother-in-law, Frank Fay, that served in World War II. Frank John Fay was born on August 31, 1927 in York, North Dakota. He graduated from Rugby High School in 1945. On May 11, 1945, Frank entered active military service in the United States Navy. He was honorably discharged on June 16, 1946 with the rank of Seaman First Class. Frank re-entered active military service in the United States Air Force on January 10, 1951 and served during the Korean War. He was honorably discharged as a Staff Sergeant (T) on January 9, 1955. He was the recipient of the National Defense Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. During his lifetime, Frank was very active in the Hutchinson, Minnesota American Legion Post #96. He held the position State Commander of the Minnesota of the American Legion in 1980-1981. He also served his community in many civic organizations. Frank passed away on January 30, 2019 at the age of 91 years. He is interred at Oakland Cemetery in Hutchinson, Minnesota.

So, you may ask why I am writing about these three family-connected veterans. The answer is quite simple. It is because of Pat Monger, Donnie’s wife, their daughter, Mona Heustis, and Frank Fay’s daughter, Cheryl Dooley. All three of these ladies recently contacted me in regard to our Clarence Larson American Legion Post #23 Veterans Commemorative Ceiling Tile project. They all wanted to donate an individual tile for Richard, Donnie, and Frank as a further way to honor their memory. Through phone contact with Mona and Cheryl and personal visits with Pat, I was moved by their pride and support for their family members’ service and sacrifice for our country. Pat Monger, at age 90, still beams with pride when talking about her loved ones’ devotion to service. She even let me borrow three large 3-ring binders filled with detailed letters, photos, and newspaper clippings of which I was privileged to read and absorb. Looking through the binders, it became very apparent how much she demonstrates her gratitude and appreciation not just for her family, but all veterans as well. Pat has been an active member of our American Legion Auxiliary for many years and was very involved with Donnie and their involvement with the Co. D, 164th Infantry reunions and events. The binders also contained many obituaries of other WWII North Dakota Co. D veterans.

So thank you Pat, Mona, and Cheryl for all you do to support the memory of loved ones who have served and sacrificed for our nation. If we as Americans are called to always remember and honor our veterans, I believe it begins with family. You three ladies, in your noble way, are doing this and thereby creating a family legacy and example for us to do the same. I know it inspires me to do a better job as a county veteran service officer.

At this Christmas time, it is easy to get caught up in the commercialism, and the shopping to find just the right gifts to give. Unfortunately, these “perfect” gifts often do not last or remain part of our Christmas memories. At my age, I have found the gifts that last in our memories, are the times we spent with our loved ones, and the gratitude we feel for our friends and family, especially at this time of year. These intangible gifts cannot be held in our hands, but are held in our hearts. Passing on these memories from one generation to the next will help create a lasting legacy for our family. Again, what you Pat, Mona, and Cheryl, are doing for the veterans in your family will hopefully be part of your family legacy as well and may it inspire us to do the same.

Have a joyous Christmas Season, and may the true miracle and message of Christmas bring peace on earth.

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