Bronze Star awarded to Purdy man 63 years after his service

Thursday, August 21, 2008

In March, Ernest Cowherd, of Purdy, received the Bronze Battle Star, which he earned 63 years ago while serving in World War II.

After being drafted into the Army in October of 1944, Ernest was trained at Fort Roberson, Ark., and then deployed to Mindanao, Philippines, as a member of the 167th Infantry in May of 1945.

Around a month later, Ernest was wounded in his leg and hip by shrapnel while serving on the front lines. He recuperated at a field hospital in the Philippines until he was transferred to Vaughan Army Hospital in Chicago, Ill., in September of 1945. He was discharged in February of 1946.

In addition to the Bronze Battle Star, Ernest earned the Purple Heart, the European African and Middle East battle ribbon and the Victory Medal. He received all of the honorary medals except the Bronze Star.

Over the last six decades, Ernest had forgotten that he should have received the Bronze Battle Star. Last year, when Ernest's grandson, Andrew Cowherd, asked to see the medal Ernest realized that he had never received the honor.

"When he was little, Andrew always wanted to see his Purple Heart and his uniform and things," said Ernest's wife, Mary. "He was always interested in those things. Last time he was here, he was reading Ernest's discharge papers and he said, 'You're supposed to get the Bronze Star. Where is it?"

"He asked how we could go about getting it," said Ernest. "Then he really put up a fight to make sure I had it."

Andrew, who lives in Illinois, contacted Congressman Roy Blunt's office about the oversight, but was told that Blunt could not help because Andrew doesn't reside in Missouri.

"Andrew called them back and said, 'My grandparents live in your district,'" said Mary. "It wasn't long after that when they contacted us."

Ernest was asked to send copies of his discharge papers and battle record to Roy Blunt's office in Springfield. In reviewing Ernest's case, it was discovered that state records pertaining to Ernest's service had been destroyed in a fire in the 1970s.

Around a month after the Cowherds submitted Ernest's military documents, the Bronze Battle Star arrived in a first class envelope.

"I was pretty surprised that I got it, really," said Ernest. "He stayed with it until I got it. It is pretty nice to have."

"I think the War on Terror has really made people realize the sacrifices veterans make, both today and in the past," said Andrew. "It was important for me to see that he was honored after everything that he went through. I felt it was something he deserved.

"Grandpa is a great person," said Andrew. "He's who I look up to. He's my role model."

Ernest and Mary have seven children, Gene Cowherd, of Purdy, Robert Cowherd, of Chilicothe, Charles Cowherd, of Springfield, Jeannette Cowherd, of Kansas City, John Cowherd, of Mt. Vernon, Randy Cowherd, of Ozark, and Andrew's father, Don Cowherd, of Billings.

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