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46 Years Later, Army Veteran Larry Burton receives Purple Heart
Burton was honorably discharged from the Army in May 1969, but he had never received his Purple Heart because of a clerical error. 'The Army righted that wrong, and we are going to finish it up' - VFW POST 6097 COMMANDER JOE HARE
Click on headline for story with photos
By Duane Bonifer
COLUMBIA, KY - Almost a half-century after he was wounded serving his country, an Adair County Army veteran was recognized Wednesday for the sacrifices he made in Vietnam.
Larry Burton of Columbia, who was a private in the Army's 506th Infantry, was awarded a Purple Heart at Lindsey Wilson College's annual Veterans Appreciation Luncheon, more than 46 years after being wounded in battle.
As Army veteran Joe Hare of Columbia VFW Post 6097 told a packed room of more than 180 guests, the event helped correct a wrong.
"The Army righted that wrong, and we are going to finish it up," Hare said.
Burton was injured in a battle on July 22, 1968, near Cu Chi, South Vietnam. As his company moved on a village, they ran into a well-entrenched company of North Vietnamese Regulars.
"They were the big boys ... they were respected soldiers, I'll give them that," Hare said during the ceremony.
Burton was shot by enemy forces after he had volunteered to resupply two of his platoons with ammunition. Although wounded several times, the orders report that Burton "continued to move forward until he lost consciousness." His "personal bravery and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army," according to the orders.
Burton was honorably discharged from the Army in May 1969, but he never received a Purple Heart because of a clerical error.
About a year ago, Hare led an effort to get the oversight corrected.
"Right at 10 months later, Joe calls me up one day, 'Joe, I got it,'" Hare recalled during the ceremony.
Ironically, the order awarding Burton the Purple Heart was cut July 22, 2014 -- 46 years to the day after his injury. "We thought that was pretty cool," Hare said.
During Wednesday's ceremony, Burton was officially presented the Purple Heart by veteran Joe Fair of Campbellsville, Ky., who was a sergeant in the Army during the Vietnam War.
"It's just an honor to be able to do this," Fair said.
Burton told the audience that "it's quite an honor" to finally receive the Purple Heart he earned more than four decades ago in Southeast Asia.
He said that in many ways, the 46-year wait was worth it because he got to receive the honor in his hometown.
"I thought, 'You know if the Army had given my Purple Heart when I had it coming, it'd be some colonel (who would) come by and pin it on my chest and salute me for my service. I'd never see him again, probably couldn't remember his name,'" he said. "Maybe it was meant to be done on a day like this. ... I'm sure this is a lot better than some colonel coming by and pinning this on me. ... I think this is better than getting a Purple Heart pinned on me in Vietnam, I really do."
The day Burton was injured, he was one of 24 soldiers in his company who wounded; 17 were killed. "That was not our worst battle," he said.
And Burton said he never stops thinking about his brothers in arms.
"All these years, I think about them every day," he said. "I kind of have a little guilty feeling -- why did I make it, and why did they die? You think about what I could have done that day to save them."
This story was posted on 2014-11-13 05:25:30
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