Clinton Sagers was taken prisoner and wounded in World War II but never got recognition.
Normally, a Purple Heart medal is awarded to soldiers who are wounded in combat. However, a fire in the '70s destroyed military records documenting his injury and his chances for the medal.
After 64 years, a group of Utah dignitaries joined Sagers and his family and awarded him the Purple Heart in the Gold Room at the Utah state Capitol. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.; Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah; as well as Veteran Affairs director Terry Schow, spoke to honor the WWII veteran and award him his overdue Purple Heart.
After an all-night firefight, suffering from frostbite and a shrapnel wound, having had nothing to eat for days, Sagers was shipped to a German prisoner of war camp, Hatch said.
"It reminds us once again of the inordinate heroic actions of the 'greatest generation,"' the senator said, thanking Sagers for his service.
Though the medal was late, Bishop said something positive will come from it. The younger generation, he said, can see the selfless deeds Sagers performed for his country.
Bishop was also enthralled with Sagers' story.
"In reading his story, I have to admit, this would make a heck of a movie," he said.
Huntsman said the Purple Heart is the oldest American symbol, one that is awarded for blood spilled in service of country.
"We're here to state we revere this good man," he said.
Through tears, Schow said Sagers had the worst job in the military as an infantryman and deserved the Purple Heart.
"I knew he'd earned it," Schow said.
Sagers said he had never seen such a commotion made for an "old farmer" like him but was happy for the honor.
"This Purple Heart means a lot to me," he said.
Sagers proclaimed the event "one of the most wonderful days" of his 86 years.
Sagers' wonderful day took a while to come. After six years and 40 letters, e-mails and calls, Sagers finally received his award.
Schow said he's happy because he was afraid Sagers would die before he got it. He said he wished Sagers' wife, who has since died, could have seen Sagers' Purple Heart but said he thinks she is "here in spirit."In a interview before the ceremony, Sagers lifted his pant-leg to show the long scar on his left knee left from the wound he suffered at the Battle of the Bulge.
E-mail: [email protected]