ST. PETER, Minn. — Earl Meyer remembers in vivid detail when his platoon came under heavy fire during the Korean War — he still has shrapnel embedded in his thigh.
But over 70 years later, the 96-year-old is still waiting for the U.S. Army to recognize his injury and to award him a Purple Heart medal, which honors service members wounded or killed in combat.
Meyer has provided the Army with documents to back up his assertion that he was wounded in combat in June 1951. Doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs agreed that his account of the shrapnel coming from a mortar attack was probably true. But few men in his unit who would have witnessed the battle have survived, and he thinks the medic who treated him on the battlefield was killed before he could file the paperwork.
An Army review board in April issued what it called a final rejection of Meyer's request for a Purple Heart, citing insufficient documentation. His case highlights how it can be a struggle 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.
“At first I didn't know that I had been wounded,” Meyer wrote in a sworn statement that was part of his rejected appeal. “But as my unit advanced from where the mortar rounds were hitting, I noticed that my pants were sticking to my leg. I reached down to correct this and discovered that my hand was covered in…