We have real results to bring you from a recent KELOLAND News Investigation: Forgotten Soldier of the Forgotten War.
91-year-old Korean War veteran, Gene Coyle was injured at least three times on the battlefield.
Despite years of attempts, his son was unable to secure the medals his father should have received from the war.
That’s why he brought his father’s story to KELOLAND Investigates. KELOLAND’s Angela Kennecke updates you with the good news.
It’s not all the medals the family was asking for, but it’s one of the most important– the Purple Heart.
In less than a week following our investigation into why Gene Coyle wasn’t awarded them in the first place, his son Kenny got the phone call he’d been waiting for for two years.
“It was a shock it was approved that he’s getting one Purple Heart,” Kenny said.
A shock, because even after wartime shrapnel was removed from Gene’s back just a few months ago and documented by the VA, the Army still said no to Kenny’s request on behalf of his dad.
“Denials after denials; I mean he’s 91 and it looked like bureaucracy was going to deprive him of what his country owes him–Purple Heart and bronze stars,” Kenny said.
Gene’s records had been destroyed in a 1973 fire, along with 18 million other military veteran records. As our investigation showed, the Army did have other records showing that Gene had suffered a concussion and eye injury from enemy fire.
“He was blown out of his fighting hole with mortar rounds and grenades–close combat that was a terrible day,” Kenny said.
After that terrible day, Gene was told he was getting the Purple Heart.
“I got hit different times and that one time my company commander said he had me put in for the Purple Heart and I looked at him and shrugged my shoulders–I ain’t out of here alive yet, so….and then he was going to put me in for the Purple Heart and then he got killed with a mortar round.” Gene said.
Kenny, who’d heard Gene’s war stories his entire life, has been determined not to let his father die without the recognition he deserves.
“Yeah, aint’ that something that you go to all that work, Gene said.
“I knew it was hell and he’s got to have recognition and that’s only right, it’s like he didn’t do anything all most and he did. Every day in Korean War combat–just surviving the day was a bronze star day,’ Kenny said.
All along, Gene has professed he doesn’t need the accolades.
“I’m the type that don’t need it, recognition,” Gene said.
“He always said he didn’t care about it or whatever, but I did,” Kenny said.
Now, in a sudden about face, the Army says Gene can finally get that Purple Heart.
“After all that time I get the Purple Heart,” Gene said.
“It was something I never thought we’d ever accomplish. I always call it rolling that boulder up the hill. I keep trying and obviously we needed help from KELOLAND; so I think that’s what brought it over the top,” Kenny said.
Gene on the other hand is taking the news in stride.
“Talk about a Purple Heart; in combat, watching machine gun firing, receiving it from both sides and everything–I think your heart turns purple!” Gene said.
For his family, this outward sign of appreciation for his bravery is all they’ve hoped for. They’re now counting the days until Gene can be properly presented with the Purple Heart.
“If I get one I’ll hold it up to get a picture of it and that’s good enough. I’ve got to admit you guys did pretty good,” Gene said.
The Coyles worked through Senator John Thune’s office to get Gene his award.
Senator Thune tells us in a statement, “I want to congratulate the Coyle family for their diligent effort that has resulted in this long overdue recognition for Eugene.”
Now the Coyles are hoping Senator Thune will present Gene with the Purple Heart. KELOLAND News will be there when he gets it.