More than 50 of Joseph A. Farinholt’s family and friends, and other military veterans gathered at Carroll Post 31 of the American Legion in Westminster on Nov. 19 to honor the former soldier and Finksburg resident who served in Europe during World War II with the 175th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division.
It is a deeply held history and cherished tradition in Carroll County to honor the men and women who have died and honorably served in the military — and to never forget them. The American Legion ceremony was held to posthumously dedicate the Maryland Route 32 bridge over Liberty Reservoir to Farinholt.
In an October news release, Frank Rauschenberg, post commander of the Jerome L. Day Post 48 – 29th Division Association, wrote “Farinholt is believed to be the only enlisted member in the history of the U.S. military to receive four awards of the Silver Star, the U.S. military’s third-highest decoration for valor in combat,” ranking behind only the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross.
Farinholt was born on July 17, 1922, in Catonsville. He was married to Agnes Marshall “Reds” Farinholt for 57 years when he died at 79 on June 11, 2002.
He lied about his age when he enlisted, just shy of his 16th birthday, in 1938, in the Maryland National Guard’s 5th Regiment of Infantry, in Baltimore. On June 1, 2002, just before Farinholt died, Baltimore’s 5th Regiment Armory named its drill hall for him. He left the hospital against doctors’ orders to attend the ceremony.
On Aug. 2, 1940, his unit was re-designated the 175th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Division. He remained with the infantry from its mobilization for World War II until he was severely wounded in November 1944 in Bourheim, Germany. While diverting a German attack, which led to his fourth Silver Star, he was shot approximately 20 times. He spent the next two years in hospitals. The last two bullets were removed in 1986.
He also received seven Purple Hearts and numerous other medals, including the Belgium Croix de Guerre. He was discharged from the Army on Jan. 26, 1946. Many wondered why he was not awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions.
In November 2002, Farinholt family members met in Washington, D.C., “to submit a biography, photographs and a video of his interview with U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., to the Library of Congress as part of its Veterans History Program,” according to an article by Lauren King for the Carroll County Times on Nov. 10, 2002.
King reported that the Veterans History Program “was signed into law October 2000 and was designed to collect and preserve the firsthand stories of American war veterans who served in any of the five major wars of the 20th century.”
The decision to submit information to the Library of Congress’ program was an effort d attempt to get Farinholt a Distinguished Service Cross or a Medal of Honor in place of his fourth Silver Star. Maj. Drew Sullins was asked to look into Farinholt’s record and determine whether a mistake had been made in the original award.
Sullins said that, based on his research, Farinholt should have received the Medal of Honor, but the U.S. Army denied the request, according to the article. Sullins said was happy to help preserve Farinholt’s contribution to history.
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“I’m really honored … to do something to cement his legacy,” Sullins said in the King article. “He was a unique individual that despite the terrible wounds, he never let that dim his outlook on life.”
At the Nov. 19 dedication, Sullins spoke about the 2002 interviews and the lasting impression Farinholt left on him.
Over the years Farinholt remained active in many veterans organizations. In civilian life, he owned a grocery store, jewelry store, gas station, garage and family farm. He was a scoutmaster with the Boy Scouts of America, a pilot at Westminster and Clearview airports and a past president of the Freedom District Optimist Club. He had also managed the Chargers, a semi-pro football team in Carroll County.
The dedication program was led by 1st Sgt. William Rosier (retired) and included testimonials by State’s Attorney-elect and Maryland Del. Haven Q. Shoemaker, Carroll County Commissioner Richard Weaver, Retired Col. Sam Riley and Richard Snyder of the 29th Division.
According to Rauschenberg, the bridge dedication was a project of Post 48 of the 29th Division Association. Members of Post 48 worked to prepare the application and petition the Maryland Department of Transportation to name the section of the state road. Rauschenberg commended the DOT for its decision to name the bridge for Farinholt: “This dedication is in remembrance of Tech Sgt. Lightning Joe Farinholt, who fought bravely for the freedom of many people on foreign soil.”
In full disclosure, this writer is a member and co-chaplain at the Carroll Post 31 of the American Legion, and the 29th Division Association. I considered Farinholt to be a cherished friend. Former Baltimore Sun writer Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article, as well as retired Command Sgt. Major Tom Beyard, U.S. Army; Patty and Mike Whitson; and Kim Zepp Royer.
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at email@example.com.