Exeter man receives overdue recognition

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Earlier this month, Bill Henry, of Exeter, received a much overdue recognition. On Aug. 4, he was presented with a Purple Heart during a special ceremony held at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Fayetteville, Ark.

"I was discharged in 1952," said Bill. "They had lost some of the records in a fire in St. Louis."

According to Bill's wife, Flonnie, the couple read an article in a local newspaper that gave information on a program that could help veterans receive lost medals.

"They sent us an application, but we don't really like to fill anything like that out," said Flonnie. "Then, Bill started visiting the VA for health reasons, and we spoke to someone there about it."

During a hearing screening, a medical professional inquired about a scar on Bill's arm.

"I told them that I had shrapnel through my arm from a hand grenade," said Bill. "They wanted to know more about what happened."

The medical professional asked Bill a series of questions about his injury. Bill was also asked to complete a small amount of paperwork regarding the lost medal.

Later this summer, Bill was notified that he would finally receive the Purple Heart at an honorary memorial service held at the facility in Fayetteville. Even though he is a Missouri resident, staff members were excited to make the presentation to Bill, who was the only medal recipient at this year's event.

Bill, who is a veteran of the Korean War, also earned a Bronze Star during his service. According to a plaque that hangs in his home, Bill received the honor for "meritorious achievement in ground operations against the enemy."

"I was on the line, and the body of a soldier had been left behind the line," said Bill. "I was the platoon sergeant at the time, and I was asked to send someone to retrieve the body.

"I volunteered myself, because I hate to ask someone to do something that I wouldn't do," said Bill. "I went up and got the body. We never left anyone behind."

Bill became a member of the Seventh Division Infantry in November of 1950. Although he was injured in September of 1951, he served in the infantry until August of 1952.

After he was discharged from the service, Bill worked on aircrafts in Tulsa, Okla., for a few years before returning to Barry County with Flonnie. He took a job at the Barry County Lumber Company, where he worked for eight years, and then found his calling as an over-the-road truck driver.

After 23 years as a truck driver, health reasons forced Bill to find a job that would keep him closer to home. Over the last few years, he shuttled vehicles for Les Jacobs Ford-Mercury. He is now enjoying retirement.

Bill and Flonnie's children, Marty and Debbie, both live in Barry County. The couple also has five grandchildren, Kelli Jo, Hannah, Kelsey, Keith and Gage, and five great-grandchildren.

The Henrys are also the parents of the late Ricky Henry.

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