U.S. veteran honored 70 years after saying 'no thanks' to Purple Heart
By Matthew Liptak
AUBURN, New York (Reuters) - An 89-year-old U.S. World War Two veteran who was wounded when his plane crashed in occupied France in 1944 received a Purple Heart medal on Saturday, an honor he declined 70 years ago.
Richard Faulkner was a 19-year-old staff sergeant when the B-17 bomber in which he was flying on his first combat mission collided with an allied aircraft. All aboard were killed except Faulkner, who parachuted to safety and was stranded behind enemy lines.
"It's just unbelievable that they all died and I didn't," Faulkner said in an interview before the awards ceremony at his retirement community in Auburn, New York, about 200 miles northwest of New York.
When he escaped Nazi-controlled territory Faulkner was offered the Purple Heart, but he declined it. He had a hard time accepting the tragedy, he said.
The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who are wounded in battle and posthumously if they are killed in action or die after being wounded in action.
About a year ago Faulkner found himself regretting his decision because he wanted his grandchildren to have something by which they could remember his military service, said his daughter-in-law Mary Ellen Faulkner.
She said the veteran had felt awkward about receiving an award given the deaths of the other servicemen.
She contacted her father-in-law's congressman, Democrat Dan Maffei, whose office determined that the veteran was still eligible to receive the medal. Continued...