A Sioux Falls Korean War Veteran injured by enemy fire never got his Purple Heart, or other medals of valor, because of a fire in 1973 that destroyed his records.
In 2017, our KELOLAND News Investigation, “Forgotten soldier of the forgotten war,” looked into Gene Coyle’s story and found letters and medical reports that backed him up. He even had enemy shrapnel that had been lodged in his back for more than 60 years removed. But that wasn’t enough to convince the Army.
Following our investigation, Senator John Thune’s office was able to help secure Coyle’s long-awaited Purple Heart and presented it to him in December of 2017.
This week, Senator Thune also paid tribute to Coyle’s bravery for the Congressional Record.
Coyle is now 93-years-old and living in a nursing home. He had to undergo two surgeries and his family was unable to see him for months due to the pandemic.
TRIBUTE TO EUGENE F. COYLECONGRESSIONAL RECORD — SENATE August 4, 2020
Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, today I
wish to recognize and pay tribute to
Mr. Eugene F. Coyle, a patriot who
served in the U.S. Army during the Korean war.
At the age of 23, Sergeant Eugene F.
Coyle enlisted in the U.S. Army, just 3
months after the war started in Korea.
As a rifleman and machinegunner assigned to the 24st Infantry Division,
21st Regiment, 2nd Battalion, F Company, Eugene was quickly put into the
fight, experiencing a number of combat
engagements with the enemy.
One such engagement occurred in
April 1951 near the Hwacheon Reservoir, South Korea, where Eugene exhibited composure under fire. As squad
leader, Eugene led an advance against
the enemy until his position was hit by
mortar fire. Despite sustaining injuries
from the shelling, he continued to provide covering fire for his unit.
During another combat engagement
in early July 1951, in the vicinity of
Sabanggo-ri, North Korea, an enemy
mortar round threw Eugene from his
fighting position. Eugene, though injured by shrapnel, would not leave the
fight. He regained his footing and ran
to aid a severely injured soldier, getting him to cover. Eugene was later
sent to the hospital ship USS Repose
for his own injuries.
Eugene, deserving of commendation
for his courage under fire, as well as for
his wounds resulting from close engagement with enemy forces, would unfortunately wait decades before the Nation properly recognized him for his
service and sacrifice, even as he carried
a piece of shrapnel embedded within
his body for over 60 years.
On November 15, 2017, Eugene F.
Coyle was awarded the Purple Heart in
addition to the United Nations Service
Medal, the National Defense Service
Medal, the Korean War Service Medal,
and the Combat Infantry Badge. Like
many veterans of his generation have
experienced, poor or lost records have
made it difficult to meet stringent administrative requirements for certain
military awards. This challenge does
not diminish their courage, nor our
gratitude, for their actions in defense
The gallantry of Eugene F. Coyle reminds us what we owe heroes like him
for the sacrifices, often unrecognized
and unrequited, that they have made. I
am honored to pay tribute to Eugene
F. Coyle and thank him for his exemplary service to our county.