"As Branch President, I am very excited and honoured that the Woon family chose to donate this precious medal to our Legion," says Beth Scott, President of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 270 Coldwater. The medal she is referring to was presented to the Coldwater Branch on Saturday, August 6th, 2016, by Bill and John Woon of Helena, Montana, sons of the late Dave Woon of Coldwater. "The medal is a replica of a [U.S.] Congressional Gold Medal awarded in 2015 to the men of the First Special Service Force," explains Bill. "Our dad Dave was a member of that unit."
"Dad left Canada in 1942 to train for the First Special Service Force," he adds. "When he returned from the war he moved to Montana, where my mother lived. Although dad left Coldwater, Coldwater and Canada never left dad. He was always proud of his Canadian Heritage."
Sergeant Dave Woon's unit, the FSSF was a joint Canada-U.S. commando unit that gained fame as "The Devils' Brigade" during the Second World War. Formed in July 1942 at Fort Harrison near Helena, Montana, its members received rigorous training in parachuting, rock climbing, hand-to-hand combat, and other special techniques. The 1,800 men – close to 700 of them Canadians - took part in the landing in the Aleutians in the summer of 1943, and fought valiantly in the Italian Campaign, Southern France and in the Rhineland until the unit's disbandment in December 1944.
The Congressional Gold Medal awarded to Dave Woon and the men of the FSSF is bestowed by the United States Congress. It is one of the highest civilian awards in the U.S., awarded to persons "who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient's field long after the achievement."
If the name Woon will sound familiar to many members of the Coldwater community it may be because Dave was the son of Nelson D. Woon, Coldwater's long serving Fire Chief from 1912 to 1946. Today, the Nelson D. Woon Memorial stands in a park by the Coldwater River, erected in recognition of Chief Woon's "Lifetime of Service to the Community."
"Dad was very proud of his Coldwater and Canadian heritage," concludes Bill. "John and I wanted to bring his CGM home to where he and his family grew up and are today. We wanted this piece of Woon and Coldwater history to return to Coldwater."
Dave Woon passed away on November 20, 1970 at the age of 50. He would have been proud of his sons' initiative.