ST. PETER, Minn. — Earl Meyer remembers in vivid element when his platoon got here below heavy hearth through the Korean Struggle — he nonetheless has shrapnel embedded in his thigh.
However over 70 years later, the 96-year-old remains to be ready for the U.S. Army to acknowledge his damage and to award him a Purple Coronary heart medal, which honors service members wounded or killed in fight.
Meyer has offered the Army with paperwork to again up his assertion that he was wounded in fight in June 1951. Docs on the Division of Veterans Affairs agreed that his account of the shrapnel coming from a mortar assault was in all probability true. However few males in his unit who would have witnessed the battle have survived, and he thinks the medic who handled him on the battlefield was killed earlier than he may file the paperwork.
An Army assessment board in April issued what it referred to as a closing rejection of Meyer’s request for a Purple Coronary heart, citing inadequate documentation. His case highlights how it may be a battle for wounded veterans to get medals they’ve earned when the fog of warfare, the absence of information and the passage of time make it difficult to provide proof.
“At first I did not know that I had been wounded,” Meyer wrote in a sworn assertion that was a part of his rejected attraction. “However as my unit superior from the place the mortar rounds had been hitting, I observed that my pants had been sticking to my leg. I reached all the way down to right this and found that my hand was lined in blood.”
Meyer took the uncommon step of suing the Division of Protection and the Army in September. The Army’s Workplace of Public Affairs stated it does not touch upon ongoing litigation. However after The Related Press made requests for touch upon Meyer’s case, the workplace of the Army’s high noncommissioned officer, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Weimer, stated that it will take one other look.
“The Sergeant Main of the Army’s Workplace is participating with Mr. Meyer’s household and looking out into the state of affairs,” spokesperson Grasp Sgt. Daniel Wallace stated. “Both manner, we’re pleased with Mr. Meyer’s service to our nation.”
Meyer stated in an interview that he would not have pursued the Purple Coronary heart as a result of his accidents had been comparatively minor in comparison with these of many males he served with, however his three daughters persuaded him. Rising up, they knew that he had been injured within the warfare, however like many veterans, he by no means talked a lot about it. It is solely been up to now decade or in order that he is opened as much as them, which led them to induce his pursuit of a Purple Coronary heart.
“I feel it would present closure for him. I actually do,” stated his daughter, Sandy Baker, of New Buffalo, Michigan.
Tony Cross, a incapacity claims and appeals specialist with the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans’ service group, stated the Legion does not generally see instances like Meyer’s of medals denied, although it did see one earlier this 12 months. The method is difficult as a result of every army department has its personal approval course of and it will get tougher after a veteran leaves the army, he stated.
Meyer’s important impediment has been the shortage of paperwork. He informed the AP the medic who bandaged his leg informed him he would file the types to point out he was wounded in fight. However he by no means did. Meyer thinks the medic might have been killed in motion. Just a few members of his platoon made it out unhurt.
On the time, Meyer wasn’t damage badly sufficient to go away the battlefield. However Army medical information present he injured his again a number of days later when he fell down a hill whereas carrying a machine gun, after which aggravated it once more days later whereas lifting ammunition. He was evacuated to a MASH unit, then a hospital ship. The information present his therapy included a tetanus shot, apparently for the shrapnel damage.
“I nonetheless had the opening in my pants and the blood on it,” he stated concerning the time he was hospitalized for his again. He stated he nonetheless had the patch on his leg. “I ought to have informed them at the moment.”
However he wasn’t pondering then about gathering paperwork for a future medal. His thoughts was on survival.
“I used to be simply glad to get out of there,” he stated.
Unintended again accidents typically do not qualify a service member for a Purple Coronary heart, however wounds from enemy shrapnel can.
Meyer completed out his tour guarding prisoners of warfare. He was honorably discharged in 1952. His decorations included the Fight Infantryman Badge, which is reserved for individuals who actively take part in floor fight below enemy hearth. He additionally obtained the Congressional Gold Medal for his service within the Service provider Marine in World Struggle II.
He nonetheless has espresso with fellow veterans a pair mornings every week on the St. Peter American Legion publish. He stated his leg is not acutely sore, nevertheless it nonetheless aches. VA docs informed him they did not wish to threat surgical procedure to take away the shrapnel as a result of it was too near his sciatic nerve.
In 2005, docs on the VA Medical Heart in Minneapolis agreed that his leg damage in all probability occurred in fight. “The scar within the left thigh is not less than as possible as not (50/50 chance) attributable to or a results of a fight fragment wound,” they wrote in a single report. “Affordable doubt has been resolved in your favor,” they wrote in one other.
Meyer first utilized for a Purple Coronary heart in 2020. The Army denied him, saying he wanted extra documentation.
So U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s employees then helped him get paperwork from the Nationwide Archives and made quite a few follow-up inquiries. However even with the extra proof, the Army Board for Correction of Navy Data turned him down. Klobuchar stated this week that she’s not giving up.
“Earl Meyer put his life on the road in protection of our freedoms, and we’ll proceed to do all we are able to to additional the work to rightfully honor his service,” the Minnesota Democrat stated in a press release.
In its most up-to-date rejection letter, the board stated he will need to have “substantiating proof to confirm that he was injured, the wound was the results of hostile motion, the wound will need to have required therapy by medical personnel and the medical therapy will need to have been made a matter of official file.”
The board conceded that “some proof obtainable for assessment signifies a attainable damage,” however that “based mostly on the preponderance of the proof obtainable for assessment, the Board decided the proof introduced inadequate to warrant a suggestion for aid.”
Meyer’s lawyer, Alan Anderson, wrote within the lawsuit that assessment boards have awarded Purple Hearts below comparable circumstances — generally below courtroom order. He stated the board famous the issues of relying solely on medical information when it authorized a Purple Coronary heart in a separate 2015 case.
“Beneath wartime circumstances, wounds requiring medical therapy by a medical officer is not going to all the time obtain such therapy, and, even when a Soldier requiring such therapy receives it, there might be instances the place the therapy is just not made a matter of official file,” the board stated in that case. “In such instances, different sources, together with credible statements from colleagues, could also be helpful in establishing the circumstances wherein a Soldier was wounded.”
Karnowski reported from Minneapolis; Perez Winder reported from New Buffalo, Michigan.
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