A good thing happened after a Veterans Affairs doctor rejected Warren Sessler’s disability claim because his Army records didn’t show he had been wounded: He finally received a Purple Heart medal officially from a general.
Odd as it may sound, Sessler, 82, of Henderson, received a Silver Star medal in the field for gallantry in action at the Battle of Outpost Harry during the Korean War. But he was never presented with a Purple Heart medal for mortar and grenade shrapnel wounds and other injuries he suffered during a different attack on July 16, 1953, in North Korea.
Eight years later the Army mailed an unmarked Purple Heart to his home in Detroit.
“I did receive a certificate and a medal,” he said Wednesday. “I couldn’t use it for anything legitimately because it’s not on my DD-214 discharge papers, and it didn’t come with any orders.”
Even though he has scars from shrapnel and hearing aids the VA gave him for eardrum damage from explosion percussions, his doctor told him five months ago that without paperwork the VA couldn’t act on his disability claim.
So Sessler enlisted the help of Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., a member of the House Armed Services Committe who is also an Army Reserve brigadier general. His staff launched a search for records the VA said had been lost.
Sessler remembered that after he was wounded he had been transported to the 121st Army Evacuation Hospital and spent five days there.
“I asked to be released as soon as possible because the war was ending and I wanted to get back to my unit,” he said.
Heck’s staff was able to find references in archived field reports that confiirmed Sessler’s recollections. With those documents they were able to correct his service record and order a new Purple Heart medal, one that has his name on it.
“Then General Heck got involved and asked me, ‘Warren,’ he said, ‘has the Purple Heart ever been presented to you?’ ‘No sir,’” Sessler said of the exchange. “General Heck said it’s a disgrace to mail somebody an important award like the Purple Heart and not actually award it to the individual.”
So on Aug. 24 after Heck wrapped up a meeting with his Veterans and National Security Panel in Henderson, Sessler stood at attention while Heck pinned the medal on the breast pocket of Sessler’s dress uniform.
Now with his record corrected, Sessler said he intends to ask the VA to reconsider his disability claim.