Minnesota Korean War Veteran Awarded Purple Heart After 73-Year Battle


In the heartland of Minnesota, Earl Meyer, a 96-year-old Korean War veteran still bearing combat injuries marked by shrapnel lodged in his leg, found justice 73 tardy years later. The long-awaited honor, the Purple Heart, a medal perserved for service members wounded or killed in combat, was finally granted to Meyer by the U.S. Army.

The shift in events took place following an unyielding campaign led by Meyer’s attorney and his devoted daughters, with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar adding her influential weight to the cause. Their persistent pursuit caught the eye of the Army’s Sergeant Major, the highest-ranking noncommissioned officer, who displayed keen interest in the case that had been previously cast aside repeatedly due to a gaping absence of paperwork. This year, U.S. District Judge John Tunheim nudged the Army’s review board to reevaluate its stance.

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Serving as the verdict of their long fight, a blizzard of documents, as vibrant and colored as victory, arrived at Meyer’s attorney, bringing certitude to his long-awaited recognition. The verdict stated vividly, it was “for wounds received in action on June 1951 in Korea.”

Taking a moment to reflect on the journey, Meyer stated, “Seventy-three years…that’s a long stretch indeed….I didn’t entertain the notion they would push through.” His struggle and subsequent victory shines a glaring spotlight on the hard-won battle many veterans face – shrouded in the chaos of war, stumbling amidst missing records, and grappling with the relentless erosion of time’s passage, the quest for recognition can seem an insurmountable feat.

Reflecting on Meyer’s courage and service, Senator Klobuchar offered poignant words, “Earl Meyer wagered his very existence in defense of our liberties, and we are forever tethered to him by his selfless service.” She added, “I am overjoyed that, together with his family and the Army, we could deliver the well-deserved honor to him.”

Detailing his experience, Meyer shared that after the deadly mortar attack, only a handful of men from his unit returned, unscathed. Oblivious initially to his injuries, he suspects the medic who first attended his wounds fell in battle before the necessary paperwork could be processed. But in the throes of war, thoughts of gaining a medal were far from his mind – survival was paramount.

After his service, which ended in guarding prisoners of war, Meyer moved on to an honorable discharge in 1952. His bravery was not unnoticed, as he was belatedly awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Congressional Gold Medal for his time in the Merchant Marine during World War II.

Unbeknownst to his three daughters, who were well aware of their father’s war injuries, he seldom shared his wartime experiences with them, maintaining the code of silence many veterans adhere to. Only recently did Meyer share his past with his daughters, who in turn encouraged him to fight for his due recognition.

An elated Sandy Baker, Meyer’s daughter who lives in New Buffalo, Michigan, shared, “My sisters and I have pushed hard for this for nearly a decade. We’re tremendously thrilled.”

Meyer’s attorney, Alan Anderson, revealed hopes of a presentation ceremony in the foreseeable future.

The Army, however, initially having denied Meyer’s request for the prestigious medal citing insufficient documentation, later acquiesced through Senator Klobuchar’s intervention. Last week, the Army’s review board concluded, with a newfound wealth of documents, that Meyer did “establish beyond reasonable doubt that he was indeed wounded in the battlefield of early June 1951.”

The determination by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which verified the combat origin of the shrapnel causing Meyer’s occasional pain, played a crucial part in the revised judgement. Furthermore, the board noted a supportive memo from the Sergeant Major of the Army, Michael Weimer, who posited his belief in the authenticity of Meyer’s account, and advocated for another review of Meyer’s Purple Heart application.

In retrospect, Anderson emphasizes, “It’s more than just expressing our gratitude. It’s about recollecting, recollecting the enormous sacrifices they made, and in honor of those who never made it back.”