Veterans honored with medals years later
By CHAD HUNTER | Times Record, Fort Smith, Ark. | Published: February 4, 2013
Ruth Gott’s brother, who tossed aside his medals after World War II, was recognized Sunday with eight more, including the highly recognized Purple Heart.
“The story is my brother was so upset after the war, he threw all his medals away,” Gott said. “So this is for his oldest son.”
Richard McCarty of Alma died in 1986 at age 67. He was an Army truck driver during the war.
“He had three bronze stars,” Gott said Sunday after a medal ceremony in Van Buren. “He just threw them away. I guess there were things that he saw and things that he did. But he never talked about it.”
According to Retired Lt. Col. Steve Gray, military liaison to Sen. John Boozman, R-Rogers, McCarty was wounded during an offensive three weeks before the war in Europe ended. McCarty returned home to Alma in September 1945.
“This is the most recognized medal in the world,” Gray said of the Purple Heart that McCarty was posthumously awarded. “This is for either being killed in action or being wounded in action.”
Gott remembers her brother as “an easygoing guy.”
“He was 11 years older than me,” she said. “As a kid, he carried me piggy-back everywhere he went. He was kind of a special brother.”
A pair of Vietnam War veterans were also honored with long-overdue medals Sunday.
Ira Fish of Alma served as a radio operator during the Vietnam War.
Born in 1951, Fish joined the Army 20 years later. In Vietnam, he became part of the 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry.
Dennis Morgan, 65, of Mountainburg was an Army vehicle mechanic in Vietnam. He was bestowed with five medals Sunday.
“It’s probably about time, I would say,” said Morgan, who was backed by a crowd of family members at Sunday’s ceremony. “I enjoyed getting them.”
Treatment of soldiers returning from World War II and Vietnam differed greatly, Gray said.
“The World War II guys came back generally to ticker-tape parades,” he said. “It was a big deal.”
While flying back home, Vietnam veterans “were told to take their uniforms off and stuff them, and put civilian clothes on,” Gray said.
“Because if they didn’t, and they walked into civilian airports, they were spat on, their uniforms were ripped off their backs,” he said. “They were called baby killers. It was a terrible reception.”
Ceremonies honoring local veterans have been coordinated through Boozman’s office for years.
“We really do enjoy doing this,” Gray said. “And this is the only way we feel we should do this.”