Jerry Carswell of South Range was in his 20s when he was struck by shrapnel in a rocket attack in Pleiku, Vietnam.
The army specialist, crew chief on a Huey helicopter, was taken to a field hospital in Vietnam, before being dispatched to Japan, then to Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, then to Kansas during his two months of convalescence.
One thing that didn’t follow him was the Purple Heart he got when he was injured in 1969.
On Tuesday, he finally got his due medal.
Pat Ringold, owner of Benna Ford Roush in Superior, presented the honor with members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart on hand to applaud Carswell for his service nearly half a century ago.
“The service you have rendered is incredible,” Ringold said. “You made the ultimate sacrifice until you took a bullet for all of us and yet you survived.”
Ringold, who has long supported veterans in the area, said he remembered the days of the Vietnam War but was medically disqualified from service due to epilepsy.
“So this is my humble way of saying, ‘Thank you very much for your service,’” said Ringold, presenting the long awaited medal and ribbon.
Jerry Carswell speaks to reporters after receiving his Purple Heart on Tuesday. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
Carswell said he applied to receive the medal with the help of the Douglas County Veterans Duty Officer about two years ago.
“We could tell right away that he never got it,” said Brad Bennett, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 56, who was twice wounded as a Marine in Vietnam. Bennett said that although Carswell’s records showed the date he was injured, it was never recorded that he received the medal.
“It happens on occasion,” Bennett said.
“There are oversights,” said John Marshall, who served in the military and was wounded in the Gulf War. He, too, had no information regarding his Purple Heart on his DD-214 discharge documents, but he said it was an anomaly and not a frequent occurrence.
“It’s unfortunate,” Marshall said.
“I was drafted,” Carswell said. “It might not have been the most exciting thing when I received my letter, but I’m proud of it now.”
Vietnam was a life-changing event, said Carswell, 73.
“I think we were all a little different when we came back.… I’m just happy to be back,” Carswell said.