After 70 years, Hale receives Purple Heart
by JOYANNA LOVE Banner Senior Staff Writer
Jan 05, 2014 | 889 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Purple Heart
Banner photo, JOYANNA LOVE
Lester Hale received his Purple Heart on Saturday, 69 years after being wounded in battle.
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The honor didn’t come with parades or loud fanfare, but for Lester Hale it represented the end to a nearly 70-year wait.

Hale received his Purple Heart from Montgomery County Veterans Service claims specialist David Ross on Saturday.

Hale said he was shocked to receive the medal after all these years.

“I saw the biggest smile on his face and tears rolling down his face when that guy told him he was going to get his Purple Heart,” his daughter-in-law, Louise Hale, said.

“We’re very proud that he’s got it,” his son, Daniel Hale, said.

Lester Hale, now 90, is on hospice.

“It’s an honor for me just to know him, having done a thing like that. It’s amazing,” the family’s pastor, Doyle Partin, said as he listened to an account of Lester’s service.

The family had gotten in touch with Ross after a hospice social worker, Amelie Blue, gave them a number for him.

Before that, Daniel and Louise tried to secure a medal through various veterans’ offices.

Hale, a Polk County and former Bradley County resident, was wounded in World War II while serving in the 749th tank battalion.

The tank battalion was in Luneville, France in 1944 when Hale’s tank was hit. Hale had been standing beside the tank “directing fire for the big gun.”

“I was blown off the tank, flew through the air and was unaware of anything around me for 10 days. I woke up in the hospital. I had a concussion and bleeding from the nose, mouth, ears, etc. I was released from the hospital shortly after this,” Hale said in a written account of his service.

The battalion was a part of the Normandy invasion as well as the first battalion to arrive at the Belgium and Germany border, according to an account of his service.

The U.S. Army had drafted Lester in 1943.

On one mission, Lester Hale was driving his tank into a ravine. He thought the other American tanks were following him. When bullets started flying, he found that he was the lone U.S. tank.

“He came back out of there zig-zagging, trying not to get hit. He could hear those shells hitting his tank ... and he got back out. None of his crew was alive — just him,” Daniel said.

Upon his discharge in 1945, Lester was told he would be receiving a Purple Heart medal as recognition for his being wounded in battle. He was told the medal would be mailed.

Lester’s son, Daniel, said his mother had worked hard to get the recognition for her husband. Her work paid off in 2001 when then U.S. Congressman Zach Wamp presented him with recognition of his Purple Heart. For some reason, Lester did not receive the actual medal at this ceremony.

Daniel said the government had run out of them.

He added that there are other veterans that are still waiting to receive their medals.