Thursday, October 9, 2003

50 years late, vet gets his medal

Badly injured in Korean War, he'd had enough of Army paperwork

By John McCarthy
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Carl McDonald never knew the fate of his Army patrol on the night of Jan. 11, 1953.

McDonald, who on Tuesday received the Purple Heart he earned 50 years ago, only remembers the mine field in front of him blowing up. He never heard what happened to the 15 or 20 others, or even if any of them were killed.

"I don't know. I never found out. I don't even remember them taking me out of there. It's crazy, but I don't," said McDonald, 72, of Bangs in Knox County.

McDonald remembers boarding a plane and being taken to a hospital in Japan, but the two weeks he had spent in an Army hospital in Korea are lost to his memory.

Once in Japan, officers told McDonald he could receive his Purple Heart if he just would fill out a form. That made him angry, he said.

"If I've got to fill out a paper to get the Purple Heart, I don't really need it - so I just pitched it, and they just never did anything more with it," McDonald said.

"To get a Purple Heart, to a man laying in a hospital bed in Japan, now I've got to fill out a paper? They shouldn't do that to a GI. That's not right."

Over the years, McDonald shared the stories of the 21 months he spent in the Korean War. When the subject of his medals came up, he would repeat his frustration with the Army, his daughter said.

A little over a year ago, McDonald's five children went to work to get him the medal.

"It upset him so bad. I thought if we can get it for him, let's get it for him. He wasn't real thrilled, and he wanted people to know that," said daughter Joanna Berry of Centerburg.

Sen. George Voinovich's staff got the paperwork completed and forwarded it to the Army.

Voinovich presented McDonald the medal at an impromptu ceremony in his Columbus office.

McDonald got a pledge from Voinovich, a Republican, to see if he could make it easier for today's soldiers to get the medals they deserve.

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