Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Old Soldier Got Purple Heart before He Died

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Old Soldier Got Purple Heart before He Died

Article excerpt

Byline: John Carter, Times-Union staff writer

When longtime Arlington resident James R. "Bob" Powell got a belated Purple Heart inMay, one he earned 38 years ago in Vietnam, he knew something few others at the ceremony knew.

He was dying.

A little more than three months later, he lost a battle with esophageal cancer on Sept. 18.

He'll be honored Sunday at his beloved American Legion Post 283 on Fort Caroline Road, where he was a permanent fixture and post commander three times. The memorial service is set for 1 p.m.

"The American Legion was his second home, his family," said Bonnie Esler, who works at Post 283. "All of us here, his family and friends, certainly want to pay tribute to him. He was a quiet man and a proud man. He never wanted a lot of fussing about him. But we loved him and we're going to honor him."

State Rep. Stan Jordan, who presented the Purple Heart to Powell, said Powell was a humble hero.

"I was only too happy to be part of a corrective action to present him with something he'd earned a long time ago," Jordan said.

The representative said Powell was part of the reason he recently sent a letter to the governor suggesting ways to honor "America's greatest generation."

The 64-year-old Powell received the Purple Heart for wounds he received in Vietnam in May 1966. He got a Bronze Star at the time for heroism in the same incident that resulted in his wounds, but a paperwork snafu left him without the medal the military gives to anyone wounded in combat.

One of Powell's sons, Danny Powell, who lives in Oklahoma, said his father was very moved by getting the Purple Heart in May.

"It just meant the world to him," Powell said. "He kept his life quiet, but he was touched by getting that medal, especially at the Legion among all his close friends."

Powell said a couple of months before he died, his father gave most of his possessions to his five sons, but kept his military medals.

"I think they helped him hang on," Powell said. …

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