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Alabama war hero who ‘killed 10 Chinese Communists’ receives Purple Heart 63 years later

Purple Heart
Purple Heart

DEMOPOLIS, Ala. — Over six decades after Alabamian Freddie Gracie was severely injured in combat, he will finally receive his well-deserved Purple Heart.

Gracie joined the Army in his early 20s and served in the U.S. Army’s First Calvary Division from 1950-1953, including about a year-and-a-half in Korea.

While engaged in an intense combat situation, Gracie sustained an injury to his right thigh when a mortar round exploded near him. Undeterred, he continued fighting, ultimately earning the Silver Star, America’s third highest military honor.

According to a plaque he received with his Silver Star, Gracie “killed 10 Chinese Communists and continued fighting after being severely wounded.”

But somehow Gracie never received his Purple Heart. Decades later, the injustice was brought to the attention of Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who sprang into action.

“63 years ago, Mr. Freddie Gracie of Demopolis was injured while bravely serving our country in Korea,” said Shelby. “Unfortunately, he did not receive the Purple Heart he deserved at that time. I am grateful that I could help him finally obtain this well-deserved and long overdue recognition.”

Gracie, now 89, was elated.

“It took me from 1953 until last month to finally get it and I’m very proud,” he said. “I want to thank Senator Shelby for his help.”

It was not the first time Sen. Shelby has used his influence to make sure an Alabama hero was afforded the honor he deserved.

Shelby previously intervened on behalf of the family of Marine and CIA operative Mike Spann, the first American killed in the Afghanistan War.

Spann, who was from Marion County and graduated from Auburn University, died Nov. 25, 2001 during a Taliban prisoner riot near Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. The story of his heroic death and funeral returned to Alabamians’ consciousness this year when his dad appeared in a political ad for Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).

“My son, Mike Spann, was the first American to die on Afghanistan,” Johnny Spann said in the ad, which aired during the Super Bowl. “They said he couldn’t be buried at Arlington Cemetery. I called Senator Shelby and told him the story. Fifteen minutes later he called and said ‘Mike is going to be buried at Arlington.’ People listen to Shelby.”

RELATED: Alabama hero’s wife attended secret CIA ceremony honoring ‘The Lion of Fallujah’

(h/t Demopolis Times)

(Note: This story was originally posted June 2016)

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