Meridian man to receive Purple Heart 50 years late
PURPLE HEART Leroy Morse, 71, a retired U.S. Marine sergeant, reflects on his combat days in the Korean War while relaxing at his home south of Meridian. After waiting more than 50 years, Morse will receive a Purple Heart on Friday for being wounded in Korea. Photo by Carisa McCain / The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael/staff writer
Feb. 13, 2002
On a hot, July day in 1951, in the mountains somewhere in North or South Korea, Leroy Morse frantically searched for shelter after his battalion came under fire from enemy soldiers.
Morse, a 21-year-old Marine, jumped into an occupied foxhole, leaving his legs in the open. Flying pieces of shrapnel struck his left leg leaving a bloody gash in his shin.
The artillery raid lasted more than than 10 minutes. But Morse's wait for a Purple Heart given to soldiers who are wounded during a war has lasted more than 50 years.
Morse wasn't presented a Purple Heart when he returned from the war. The reason: he didn't seek medical attention for his wound.
Marines present award
On Friday, Morse's wait will end when he is presented his Purple Heart.
After years of paperwork and certification through the federal Veteran's Affairs board, a group of local Marines will formally present Morse the decorated medallion.
The ceremony is set for 3 p.m. at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 79 on Highway 80 West.
Ceremony means much
Marvin Weir, chairman of the VFW post, said this is one of the biggest events that ever at the Meridian post.
Meridian residents Hoot Gipson and Jimmie Walker served in the same unit with Morse C-Battery. The three men remain close friends; they often sit around and share old war stories.
Gipson said he still vividly remembers the day Morse was shot.
Friends served together
Gipson, Morse and Walker all served on the front lines of the war for several more months enduring daily gun fire, scarce food and a cold winter.
But Gipson said he will never forget the day Morse was injured.
Gipson said he plans to attend Morse's ceremony on Friday and reminisce with his old buddies Morse and Walker.