FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - A US Army Veteran was recognized during a ceremony at the Florence Veterans Memorial Park Thursday. Corporal Rudolph Pierce, 94, was awarded his Purple Heart Medal, 71 years after being injured in battle.
This month marks 71 years since Pierce was wounded in Ardennes Forest in 1945 during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. People filled the Veterans Park Thursday to honor a true hero.
"I've been waiting my whole life, it feels good, it's the best thing I ever had happen to me," said Pierce.
In 1936, Pierce began serving at the Panama Canal for the US Army. He went on to serve in World War II and left the Army right before Japan surrendered. Pierce has received a Bronze Star Medal, a Europe-Africa-Middle East Medal with three Campaign Stars, an Army Occupational Medal and the World War II Victory Medal from the Army.
One medal he had not received was the Purple Heart Medal. Pierce's family had to track down his records that were lost in a St. Louis, Missouri fire in 1973, where many soldiers' badges and awards were lost. Pierce was one of the solders affected.
Tom Holsten spoke at the ceremony today on Pierce's behalf: "We wondered whether or not it would even be possible, but once they started connecting with some of the Veteran's groups and organizations, there was an interest beyond what we anticipated."
The Chairman of the Florence Veterans Park and retired US Army Colonel Barry Wingard helped make this all possible. Wingard said, "One of the sad things is that it took this long, but one of the great things is that the Army did correct it and make it possible. Even though we are 71 years late, fairly long drawn out process and I was just happy to be a part of finally getting around to recognize this hero."
"I appreciate everybody coming, thank you. God bless you," said Pierce.
Pierce's entire family was at the ceremony. They say it is never too late to acknowledge a true hero, and Pierce has been holding on until today, to get the recognition he deserves.