Marine Veteran Surprised With Purple Heart 49 Years Later

A South Carolina native was awarded a Purple Heart on Sunday, 49 years later. News19's Lana Harris reports.

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The servicemen and women who are injured or killed overseas are awarded the Purple Heart, but one South Carolina native's award fell through the cracks 49 years ago. On Sunday, one Midlands community made sure the marine vet got the honor he deserved.

Sixty-nine-year-old Larry Berry dropped out of Richland TEC (now Midlands Technical College) to join the marines around 50 years ago.

"I mean, the dress blues,  and the heritage," Berry said, "I was a little runt and said hey, let me see if I could do it."

He was deployed to Vietnam, but he wasn't there for long.

"All I remember back at that time is helping some guys get onto the helicopter to get medevaced out," Berry said.

That's when he was instructed to get in the chopper, too.

"Found out I had blood coming down my leg," Berry said.

He'd been hit by shrapnel, and later honorably discharged. He was told he'd be receiving the Purple Heart, but it never came - and he never brought it up.

"I thought about all the other people that had gone before me that had come back minus arms or legs, or didn't come back," Berry said. "They made the ultimate sacrifice."

That's where his wife, Debbie Berry comes in.

"I knew that he was due one he just never pursued it," Debbie said.

Little did he know, Debbie helped send in all the necessary paperwork to receive the Purple Heart. 

During the Broadacres Baptist Church's veteran themed service, Berry was surprised with our nation's oldest military honor.

Directly after service, he was also given a Quilt of Valor.

"I'm 69-years-old and this is one of the happiest days of my life," Berry said.

A life well lived, thanks to the 19-year-old kid who took a chance on the Marines.

Berry says his doctors told him it would be too dangerous to take out a piece of the shrapnel in his leg, and he still has it to this day.

© 2017 WLTX-TV


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