A Black veteran of the Second World War finally receives the Purple Heart — nearly 77 years after he was wounded during the Battle of Normandy.
Osceola “Ozzie” Fletcher, 99, didn’t receive the medals upon his return home because he is Black.
Fletcher was injured when his truck was hit by German gunfire, detailed a news release, but because of “racial inequalities in the United States at that time,” he never received his Purple Heart, a medal given to military personnel who are either wounded or killed by the enemy during combat.
“He has spent his entire life giving to those around him, whether they were brothers in arms, families, or his community,” said Gen. James C. McConville, the Chief of Staff of the Army. “Today it’s Ozzie’s turn to receive, but we are not really giving him anything today. We’re delivering him something he’s been entitled to for almost 77 years: Purple Heart for wounds received.”
Fletcher was presented with the medals by McConville on June 18, at the Fort Hamilton Community Club in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“There were probably many others like myself who did not get honoured, and I just lasted longer,” Fletcher told Fox News. “However, the guys of other complexions did get medals. They showed it in their neighbourhoods and I found out about it in other ways.”
About 150 personnel gathered for the historic moment, along with family and friends of Fletcher.
“He was hurt doing the job of an American Soldier,” said Fletcher’s daughter, Jacqueline Streeter. “I do believe he was looked over because of [his race] and that’s what makes this that much better. We’re finally taking another look and considering the experience of all soldiers.”