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Vietnam vet receives replacement Purple Heart

By Carrie Vick, cvick@wkbt.com
Published On: Feb 20 2013 05:41:58 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 20 2013 06:02:54 PM CST
TOMAH, Wis. -- -

A Purple Heart is awarded to U.S. service members who are wounded in battle, serving our country.

It's a lasting reminder of the nation's gratitude -- a reminder that one Vietnam veteran's daughter wanted to make sure her dad could see every day.

He was awarded the medal more than 40 years ago, but it was misplaced, sending his daughter on a mission.

After months of phone calls and emails by his daughter, Vietnam veteran William Herrewig was given a Purple Heart medal to replace the one he lost years ago.

Herrewig lives with pieces of shrapnel still in his body from the day he was hit by enemy fire in 1968 in Vietnam.    

While a medal can never erase the terrible memories or heal the wounds, it serves as daily recognition of his sacrifice.

William Herrewig was only 19-years-old when he was wounded in battle in Vietnam.

"You can't see them when they're going to ambush you, and he went in. A rocket-powered grenade got him in the back and the buttock. Later in the day, he was hit by an AK-47 and that was in the arm. He still has shrapnel in his body," said Herrewig's daughter Holly Helms.

While not all wounds can be healed, they can be honored.

Herrewig lost his Purple Heart medal years ago, but after hours of legwork by helms, Congressman Ron Kind presented Herrewig with a replacement.

"Through the paperwork process and that we were finally able to get that caught up and today, officially present the Purple Heart to him many years after the fact," said Kind.

"It's a day I'll remember till I die. I'm glad my whole family could be here, just awe inspiring," said Herrewig.

Like many veterans, Herrewig will try to tell you he doesn't deserve the honor.

"I wasn't doing anything any different or better than anyone else over there," said Herrewig.   

"Of course he's going to say that," said Helms.

But his family will tell you otherwise

"It's like finally, finally getting the recognition he deserves," said Helms.

It's recognition that will likely serve a greater purpose than just showing Herrewig thanks.

"He needed it to bring closure I think. I think it was to bring closure to the pain he went through," said Helms.

"It makes you feel like what you did over there mattered even though it was maybe for a loss cause, it matters to me," said Herrewig.

Herrewig spent two years in Vietnam.

He was honorably discharged from the Army with the rank of Sergeant.

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