After 73 Years, Korea Vet Awarded Purple Heart

Earl Meyer, 96, fought to have Army recognize injury
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 10, 2023 10:47 AM CST
Updated May 20, 2024 2:30 PM CDT
Korean War Vet, 96, Is Still Trying to Get Purple Heart
Earl Meyer wears his freshly awarded Purple Heart medal for combat injuries he received while serving in the Korean War, Friday, May 17, 2024 in St. Peter, Minnesota.   (AP Photo/Mark Vancleave)

After 73 years and a long fight with the US Army, a Korean War veteran from Minnesota who was wounded in combat finally got his Purple Heart medal. The Army notified Earl Meyer, 96, last month that it had granted him a Purple Heart, which honors service members wounded or killed in combat. Meyer, who still has shrapnel in his thigh that continues to cause him occasional pain, had the medal pinned to his chest at a ceremony Friday at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, the AP reports. Afterward, Meyer recalled being at an earlier ceremony for veterans when Purple Heart honorees were asked to rise so they could be honored. Now, said Meyer, "I can stand up with them guys."

Earl Meyer remembers in vivid detail when his platoon came under heavy fire during the Korean War—he still has shrapnel embedded in his thigh. But over 70 years later, the 96-year-old Minnesota resident is still waiting for the US Army to recognize his injury and to award him a Purple Heart medal, which honors service members wounded or killed in combat. Meyer has provided the Army with documents to back up his assertion that he was wounded in combat in June 1951. Doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs agreed that his account of the shrapnel coming from a mortar attack was probably true. But few men in his unit who would have witnessed the battle have survived, and he thinks the medic who treated him on the battlefield was killed before he could file the paperwork.

An Army review board in April issued what it called a final rejection of Meyer's request for a Purple Heart, citing insufficient documentation. His case highlights how it can be a struggle for wounded veterans to get medals they've earned when the fog of war, the absence of records, and the passage of time make it challenging to produce proof, the AP reports. Meyer says he wouldn't have pursued the Purple Heart because his injuries were relatively minor compared to those of many men he served with, but his three daughters persuaded him. Growing up, they knew that he had been injured in the war, but like many veterans, he never talked much about it. It's only been in the past decade or so that he's opened up to them, which led them to urge his pursuit of a Purple Heart.

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He first applied for the medal in 2020. The Army denied him, saying he needed more documentation. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's staff then helped him get documents from the National Archives and made numerous follow-up inquiries. But even with the additional evidence, the Army Board for Correction of Military Records turned him down. Klobuchar said this week that she's not giving up. Meyer was honorably discharged in 1952. His decorations included the Combat Infantryman Badge, which is reserved for those who actively participate in ground combat under enemy fire. He still has coffee with fellow veterans a couple mornings a week at the St. Peter American Legion post. He says his leg isn't acutely sore, but it still aches.

(More veterans stories.)

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