Associated Press

By Steve Karnowski 

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — After 73 years and a long fight with the U.S. Army, a Korean War veteran from Minnesota who was wounded in combat was set to finally get his Purple Heart medal on Friday.

The Army notified Earl Meyer, 96, of St. Peter, last month that it had granted him a Purple Heart, which honors service members wounded or killed in combat. Meyer, who still has shrapnel in his thigh that continues to cause him occasional pain, was scheduled to receive it in a ceremony at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter.

An Army review board had rejected Meyer’s application several times due to a lack of paperwork, but it reversed course after a campaign by his three daughters and attorney. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota also intervened on his behalf along with the service’s top noncommissioned officer, the sergeant major of the Army. A federal judge ordered the review board to take another look.

Meyer’s case showcases the challenges for wounded veterans to get medals they’ve earned when the fog of war, the absence of records and the passage of time make it challenging to produce proof.

“Seventy-three years, yeah. That’s a long time all right. ... I didn’t think they would go for it,” Meyer said in an interview after he got the news last month.

Klobuchar will be one of the dignitaries at the ceremony, while one of her former aides who worked on the case will sing the national anthem, said Meyer's daughter, Sandy Baker, of New Buffalo, Michigan.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Weimer said he wouldn't be able to attend, but he sent a latter of gratitude for Meyer's “selfless service and dedication.” And in a handwritten addition at the bottom of the letter Weimer said: “Thank you for not giving up on us! Long overdue!”

Weimer will send two command sergeant majors from the Army National Guard in his place, Baker said.

Few men in Meyer's unit who witnessed the mortar attack in 1951 survived. Only a few members of his platoon made it out unharmed. He didn’t even realize at first that he had been wounded. He said he thinks the medic who treated him on the battlefield was killed before he could file the paperwork. And he wasn’t thinking then about a medal anyway — he just wanted to survive.

When the Army denied Meyer’s first applications for the medal, it said his documentation was insufficient. Klobuchar’s office helped him obtain additional documents and an Army review board finally concluded last month that the new evidence “establishes beyond reasonable doubt that the applicant was wounded in action in early June 1951.”

The board cited records from the Department of Veterans Affairs, where doctors concluded the shrapnel in his thigh had to be from a combat injury. The board also cited a recent memo from Weimer, who said he believed Meyer’s account was accurate, and that his medal request deserved another review.