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Veteran receives long-due honor

Fifty years after being wounded in battle, Gordon Miller received his Purple Heart Tuesday, thanks to students at Duluth's Marshall School. Miller has two grandchildren attending Marshall, and he had been a guest speaker in one of the school's Ge...

Fifty years after being wounded in battle, Gordon Miller received his Purple Heart Tuesday, thanks to students at Duluth's Marshall School.
Miller has two grandchildren attending Marshall, and he had been a guest speaker in one of the school's German classes. He told the students about his experiences as a combat veteran and as a prisoner of war. Miller had been wounded, but was never awarded his Purple Heart medal from the government.
"While his tale of bravery was inspirational, the injustice that burdened him forced us to take action," said student Lucas Brown. "We felt obligated to do what we could to prevent his sacrifice from going unrecognized."
The students wrote letters to Sen. Rod Grams, Sen. Paul Wellstone and Rep. James Oberstar, and their efforts paid off. This week, a representative from Sen. Grams' office came to Marshall School to present the Purple Heart to Miller in front of the entire student body.
During the ceremony, Miller's son, Jerry Miller, told stories of his father's bravery. Miller arrived in Italy on Jan. 12, 1944. Just after crossing a river, the Germans blew up the bridge and Miller's regiment was trapped. They spent many hours in battle and many members of the regiment died at the hands of the Germans.
"My father was hit by shrapnel during the battle, most likely a German mortar shell," Jerry Miller said.
The survivors, including Miller, eventually surrendered and were taken prisoner. The Germans allowed those captured to bring their wounded to a German aide station, but because the battle was still going on, some refused to go back. But Miller returned to his fellow soldiers and began carrying them out of harm's way.
"While he was helping the other soldiers he didn't even realize he had been wounded himself," Jerry Miller told the students. "My father carried men all day long for two full days. He was sure it was more than 50 men. To this day he wishes he could have saved more."
Gordon Miller, who was 18 years old at the time, suffered wounds to his face, hands and legs.
A Purple Heart is awarded to combat veterans who have been wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy. But Miller's medical records were destroyed in a fire making it difficult to prove his injuries. All these years, Miller has been trying to convince the authorities of his claim without success. This week that all changed.
"I've been working on this for over 50 years, and they did it in 30 days," Miller said of the Marshall School students.
And when the medal, in it's leather case, was finally in Miller's hands, he had trouble controlling his emotions.
"I was choking up," he said. "I just couldn't believe it. After all these years it means that much. It's something you deserve. I'm walking around with shrapnel in my leg. If you deserve it you should have it."

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