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Veteran gets long-overdue Purple Heart

Brad Bennett, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 56, left, pins a Purple Heart on Jerry Carswell at Benna Ford Roush in Superior on Tuesday afternoon. Carswell, a Huey helicopter crew chief in the U.S. Army, was only issued the Purple Heart he should have received after he was injured in 1969 in Pleiku, Vietnam. Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com

Jerry Carswell of South Range was in his early 20s when he was hit with shrapnel during a rocket attack in Pleiku, Vietnam.

The Army specialist, a crew chief on a Huey helicopter, was taken to a field hospital in Vietnam, before being shipped out to Japan, then to Scott Air Base in Illinois, then Kansas during his two-month recovery from the injuries sustained in 1969.

“What happens many times is when you’re wounded in the field, they send you to a medical hospital,” said Brad Bennett, a U.S. Marine twice injured in Vietnam. “Usually, at the medical hospital, someone will come around, some officer or something, to present you with a medal.”

For Carswell, that didn’t happen.

Tuesday, he finally got the medal due.

Pat Ringold, owner of Benna Ford Roush in Superior, presented the recognition of Carswell’s battle wounds with members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart on hand to applaud Carswell for his service nearly a half-century ago.

“The service you have done is unbelievable,” Ringold said. “You have made the ultimate sacrifice as far as taking a bullet for all of us and yet you survived.”

Ringold, who has long supported veterans in the area, said he remembers the Vietnam era, but he was disqualified medically from service because of epilepsy.

“So this is my humble way of saying thank you very much for your service,” Ringold said, presenting the long overdue medal and ribbon.

Carswell said he applied to receive the medal with the help of the Douglas County veterans service officer about two years ago. He said he only recently received the certificate by mail because of the time it takes to look up and evaluate the records.

“We could tell right away that he’d never gotten it,” said Bennett, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 56. Bennett said while Carswell’s records showed the date he was wounded, it was never recorded that he’d received the medal.

“This does happen on occasion,” Bennett said.

“There are oversights,” said John Marshall, who served in the Army during the Gulf War. He too didn’t have information concerning his Purple Heart on his DD-214, but he said he was an anomaly, that it isn’t a frequent occurrence.

“It’s unfortunate,” Marshall said.

“I was drafted,” Carswell said. “It may not have been the most exciting thing when I got my letter, but I’m proud of it now.”

Vietnam was a life-changing event in his life, said Carswell, 73: “I think we were all a little different when we got back … I’m just glad to be back.”

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