Veterans Day was extra meaningful this year for one Wetzel County veteran, as he finally received an honor approximately 44 years late-his Purple Heart.
Despite his service for his country, as well as being severely wounded during Vietnam, Army Veteran Paul Tracy, of the First Battalion, 28th Infantry Division remains humble about his service. "I feel good about it," he said Monday at a dinner held at the Pine Grove American Legion for the bestowment. "I didn't know if I deserved it," he said, of the honor. "It wasn't on my DD 214."
Tracy's son, Joey Tracy, stated he felt "blessed" that his father could finally receive the honor. When asked if his father had mentioned his Purple Heart-or lack thereof-to his son, Joey said he had. "He did mention it . . . He showed me photos of the van that had hit the landmine."
Vietnam Army Veteran Paul Tracy’s Purple Heart was approximately 44 years late. (Photo by Lauren Matthews)
Many of the veterans at Monday's legion dinner thank fellow veteran-retired Army Veteran Kimberly Shatney-for her role in helping Tracy to receive his Purple Heart.
After serving her country, Shatney worked 15 years as a Veteran Service Officer, spending time in Detroit and Pittsburgh, to help Veterans obtain their much-deserved benefits. Now, Shatney performs this work as a volunteer in Pine Grove. On Monday, Shatney also played a role in organizing the ceremony at the legion, in Tracy's honor.
Valley High School students Colton Ring and Hunter Ring, along with Band Director Donald Taylor played the Army Song-The Army Goes Rolling Along for the ceremony. The Pledge of Allegiance was said and an invocation was given by Shatney. Those in attendance also honored their fallen comrades by recognizing the POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony, which involved a table set for one, several other meaningful tokens, and the empty chair marking that the fallen is no longer here.
Prior to Monday's ceremony, Army veteran Rudy Yost also offered some words of gratitude for Tracy, as well as some humble surprise that he, along with his Vietnam comrades, are now seen as heroes. "This is pretty neat," he noted. "They are now saying we are heroes."
"He deserves a Purple Heart," Yost adamantly added in reference to Tracy's honor.
"It was a real honor," fellow veteran John Harter stated about being the one who pinned Tracy's Purple Heart on him. Harter served with the 82nd Airborne Division during the Gulf War.
"This ceremony was very much befitting to Mr. Tracey to honor him for his service to our country," stated County Commissioner Larry Lemon, who was present Monday at the ceremony.
"I thought the ceremony was fantastic," said Pine Grove Mayor Roy Justice, also a Vietnam Veteran. He emphasized the honor was 44 years late.
Despite these words of well-deserved praise, Tracy, as his fellow veterans, remains humble-simply stating quietly, "I appreciate all the past veterans and future veterans, for all they do."