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North Carolina World War II veteran is finally presented with Bronze Star Medal

Rep. Richard Hudson pins the Bronze Star medal on Ormand Strickland on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, Fayetteville, N.C.

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By RACHAEL RILEY | The Fayetteville Observer | Published: February 18, 2021

(Tribune News Service) — World War II veteran Ormand Strickland has three cases of military awards and honors, including a Purple Heart for combat injuries.

Strickland, 95, of Wendell, N.C., shies away from speaking about the awards.

"I don't know so much about talking about it," he said.

But through the efforts of family friend, Fayetteville Councilman Johnny Dawkins, Strickland's family, and staffers in Rep. Richard Hudson's office, Strickland was presented Wednesday with another award — the Bronze Star — tied to his World War II service.

"Ormand had been recognized with many decorations for his service," Hudson said during the presentation at Fayetteville Fire Station No. 14. "However one award fell through the cracks. As somebody who deals with federal bureaucracy every day on your behalf, it doesn't surprise me, but it sure does tick me off that that award fell through the cracks until today."

The Bronze Star is awarded to service members for heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement or meritorious service in a combat zone.

Strickland enlisted in the Army in September 1944 at Fort Bragg — one month before his 20th birthday.

He was assigned to the L Company3rd Battalion143rd Infantry Regiment36th Infantry Division, which fell under the Third ArmySixth Army and Seventh Army commands when Stickland served during World War II.

The Bronze Star citation he was presented with Wednesday stated the medal is for his "meritorious achievement in active ground combat against an armed enemy of the United States," on Feb. 23, 1945, in Germany."

Strickland was one of the first scouts out in Germany, when he took on enemy fire.

Stickland was hit in the head.

"I laid there and played dead," he said.

His son, Tony Strickland, said Nazis stabbed the other scouts in his father's unit who had fallen to the ground but walked past his father.

It took his father about two to three days to return to his unit.

About a month later, Strickland was again injured, this time as part of the Rhineland Offensive attempt to secure troop movements across the Rhine River.

Strickland spotted a minefield in the road that he told his company commander about near a bridge that was critical to Army movements.

"That night brought the tanks up and told me now you go down there and lead them tanks into the mine," Strickland said.

But the Nazis attacked again — firing at their tanks — which caused the mines to "blow up" and kill everyone in the tank.

"It blew me out of the front and up a bank, and I was hurt and I was burned and all that stuff, "Strickland recalled.

Strickland was transferred to different hospitals for surgery.

"Finally, I thought I had died and gone to heaven," he said. "I heard a woman's voice, and I hadn't heard a woman's voice in months and she was calling me ... She said, 'Don't you want something to eat?' "

He remembered a visit by Gen. George S. Patton to the wounded.

"He came to a guy, he couldn't see anything wrong with (who) he cussed him out and called him a draft dodger who ought to be out there fighting," Strickland said. "Got to me and didn't say a word 'cause I had my head all bandaged up. He didn't say a word and went right on. He was a rough guy."

Within a month, Strickland was back on the front lines where he served about 18 more months.

In 1946, he was honorably discharged as a private first class.

In speaking to Dawkins about his father's service, Tony Strickland said the councilman encouraged the family to reach out to Hudson's office and they did so in May.

Working with Hudson's military affairs specialist Kris JohnsonTony Strickland said he also reached out to White House officials who pushed the matter to the chief of awards and decorations at Fort Knox, Ky.

After nine months of red tape, Strickland's award was ready.

Hudson said he thinks ceremonies like Wednesday's are important to show future generations what a "real hero is."

"It's so important that we preserve their stories, that we tell their stories, that we hold them up and honor them because we're losing them," Hudson said. "We've got to preserve that heritage and make sure that future generations understand what they did to make our freedom possible."

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