Back to: Investigates
December 06, 2017 05:02 PM

Another Family Turns To KELOLAND Investigates In Their Efforts To Obtain A Purple Heart

Flandreau, SD

Every year, veterans all across the country are awarded Purple Hearts decades after they suffered an injury on the battlefield--sometimes posthumously.

Typically it can take years of paperwork and attempts by loved ones to get the vet the honor they deserve. 

Our KELOLAND investigates team helped speed up the process for one vet recently, but we've discovered, there are more out there, just like him whose families are left frustrated after years of collecting documents only to be rejected by the military.

We'd been doing it for so many years and we'd get close to the goal and never could put it across--seemed like---you were my last hope,” Kenny Coyle said. 

Kenny Coyle asked KELOLAND Investigates to look into why his father Gene was denied the Purple Heart. 

We discovered that the record keeping was poor on the front lines and that all of Coyle's army records burned up in a 1973 fire. 

His family did find medical records that Coyle has suffered a concussion from a grenade blast on the front lines in the Korean War, but the Army still said "no."

There was even more evidence--a piece of 66-year-old wartime shrapnel just removed from his back and documented by the VA last summer.  Even that wasn't enough.

They were applying regulations to his case that you really can't because of the times, the technology difference, and the record keeping the chaos of the war. I mean he's 91 and it looked like bureaucracy was going to deprive him of what his country owes him--Purple Heart and bronze stars," Ken Coyle said.

Less than a week after our story aired, Senator John Thune's office called Coyle to tell him the Army had "changed its mind" and he would be getting the Purple Heart after all. 

“After all that time I get the Purple Heart!” Gene Coyle said.

"No, I just didn't feel like talking about it; so I just didn't. I kind of wondered why in the world there was wars--killing other people and I kind of thought that was a no good thing," Sylvan Vigness said.

Word War II Veteran Sylvan Vigness has lived with horrible memories of the war for more than seven decades.

He lost the sight in one eye after getting hit by shrapnel during the battle of Iwo Jima.  He too has never received a Purple Heart.

“There were no records of actually being wounded right on the ship,” Curtis Eng said.

After seeing Eugene Coyle's story, friends and family fighting a battle on Vigness' behalf contacted KELOLAND Investigates to see if public attention on his story could bring the same kind of results. 

In tonight's Eye on KELOLAND, we look at what records do exist of Vigness' eye injury and just how many people and how much has been done on his behalf to try to get him that Purple Heart. I have to tell you, there is a very sad twist to this story as well, but it's one you won’t want to miss.

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