- Francis Byrne, 94, will receive a Purple Heart for the injuries he suffered from a land mine during the World War II.
- Unfortunate circumstances coupled with bureaucratic failings have prevented Byrne from receiving the Purple Heart, an award recognising those wounded in combat.
- Byrne was diagnosed with terminal cancer two months ago, with doctors giving him only four months to live.
- New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen called Byrne Thursday to tell him that she had spoken with the secretary of the Army and learned that the Army has decided to grant his dying wish.
It’s taken over seven decades, but this 94-year-old Army veteran will finally be receiving a Purple Heart for injuries he suffered during the Second World War.
Francis Byrne, who enlisted in the US Army in 1943 when he was 18 years old, was part of the fifth wave at Omaha Beach at Normandy, and he was involved in the Battle of the Bulge.
He was injured in the line of duty when he was hit by shrapnel from a German land mine. His lieutenant had promised to put in the paperwork for a Purple Heart, but the officer was killed the next day, according to WMUR News.
Two months ago, Byrne was given only four months to live when he was diagnosed with terminal kidney and bladder cancer. His dying wish was to receive the award before he passed away. “It would mean everything, because I don’t know how long I have to live,” he told reporters.
On his wall is a display case featuring D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, Combat Service, Army Good Conduct, and World War II Victory medals, as well as the French Croix de Guerre, among others. In the middle, though, is an empty spot that he has long hoped to fill with a Purple Heart.
On Thursday, New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who had just wrapped up a call with Secretary of the Army Mark Esper the day before, called Byrne to give him the good news – he will finally receive his Purple Heart, an award the military presents to US service members who have been wounded in combat.
Byrne, who was assigned to an anti-aircraft battalion, was injured after a fellow soldier stepped on a land mine in a cornfield in Belgium. The pain disappeared after a few hours, and he continued to serve. It wasn’t until 2006 that doctors found a remnants of the landmine in his leg, explaining the persistent pain which had initially been dismissed.
The senator “said, ‘You’re getting your Purple Heart,” Byrne told The New Hampshire Union Leader, adding, “I started shaking … I was so emotional. I didn’t think I would live to see the day. I got off the phone, and I couldn’t call anyone for 20 minutes to tell them about it, I was so emotional.”
“Francis Byrne is an American hero and I’m so thrilled that he will finally receive his Purple Heart for his incredible sacrifice and service,” Shaheen told reporters.
“I’m very grateful to Secretary Esper and his staff for working closely with my office to make this happen,” the Democratic senator added, “I’m now working with the Secretary and his staff to arrange expedited delivery of this award to Mr. Byrne in Manchester. This Purple Heart is invaluable to Mr. Byrne and his family, and I so look forward to seeing him presented with it in the near future.”
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