46 years later, wounded Vietnam vet honored with purple heart - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

46 years later, wounded Vietnam vet honored with purple heart

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A special ceremony was held on Tuesday to honor a Tri-State hero. 

An Evansville veteran wounded in the Vietnam War was awarded the oldest decoration in U.S. military history.

The ceremony was held in the Evansville Federal Building.  It was a day that's been years in the making for one Evansville soldier.

Representative Larry Buschon awarded the purple heart to Specialist James Below, of Evansville.  The purple heart is the oldest military decoration still awarded to members of the United States military.

James Below was hurt while serving his country in 1968. On Tuesday, his country gave him an honor that was 46 years in the making.

"In honor of your service and your injuries you sustained on behalf of your country, I present you with a Purple Heart."

"Great honor to have this," Below said.

It's a badge of honor that James Below is proud to wear.

"Wasn't expecting all of this. I'm just a simple old country boy," Below said.

A simple country boy who while wounded in action in 1968 helped to save the life of his fellow soldier.

"It means a lot. 46 years," Below emotionally told 14 News.

It was in March of 1968 when the vehicle Below was in struck a land mine.

"Just as I got over the top of it, it blew me and my co-driver up," Below said.

Even though he was burned and coming under enemy fire, his focus was saving his fellow solider.

"I had to run around and get my co-driver out, pull him up through the passenger's side window," Below shared. 

The other solider was air-lifted out. Below was taken to a medic unit 20 miles away to be treated for burns.

"Funny thing about it, I had a bit of a mustache, part of it got burned off," Below said. 

Below lost touch with that other soldier, but will never lose touch with the deep feelings he has for those who weren't as lucky as him.

"The real heroes are the ones that's engraved on the Vietnam Wall.  The real heroes are our POW's," Below said to 14 News.

"This is just a little bit of trying to help my country for my fellow people," Below said.

Below continued to serve our country as a Reservist until 1995.

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