NOTE: Front page story in New Britain Herald
By Brenda Maguire
NEW BRITAIN — It’s not unusual for a Marine to be awarded the Purple Heart.
The one receiving the honor Wednesday was Pvt. George Haddad. He wore a gray suit that matched his hair, and wears hearing aids.
But what’s extraordinary is to have the medal, given to military personnel wounded in battle, awarded decades later.
Haddad, 89, was awarded the Purple Heart for a concussion sustained Feb. 26, 1945, while battling the Japanese on Iwo Jima. He doesn’t know how he received his injury, whether it was from an explosion, enemy soldier or another way, but it was serious enough to leave him in a coma for a month.
“When I read the date on (the certificate) and the battle, I was in shock,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Dachelet of the 1st Battalion 25th Marines. Dachelet attended Wednesday’s ceremony honoring Haddad.
The ceremony was held, appropriately enough, at the National Iwo Jima Memorial in New Britain in front of Haddad’s friends and family along with fellow service men and women.
Haddad, who lives in Willimantic, was in battle for three days on Iwo Jima in the 4th Marine Division before suffering his concussion.
“I appreciate what they’re doing for me and I think it’s very nice for them to be doing what they’re doing right now,” Haddad said.
He received the Purple Heart ribbon while in the hospital after his injury, but he never received the medal, so it was not official.
Three years ago Haddad was driving past a motorist who had a Purple Heart license plate and decided he wanted one. But the DMV was not able to grant him the plate unless he had the proper paperwork, which he didn’t have.
He went to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to get his Purple Heart, but officials told him he needed two people who witnessed his injury. Being that is was over 60 years after the fact, Haddad could not produce the witnesses.
“I’ll tell you the truth, I was wondering if I was entitled to it after all these years,” Haddad said.
Haddad’s brother Henry went to U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s office with Haddad’s discharge form, in an effort to get Haddad his Purple Heart before he turned 90 at the end of the month. In Blumenthal’s office he met Heather Sandler, an Army veteran who helped push it through.
Blumenthal was not able to attend the ceremony, but he did release a statement: “It is often said that the men who fought during World War II are the greatest generation, and it is men like you who have waited 66 years to receive this long-overdue honor that exemplifies the character and determination of your generation.”