Vietnam veteran finally receives Purple Heart - Republic-Times | News

Vietnam veteran finally receives Purple Heart

By on November 7, 2012 at 9:24 am

Merrill Prange of Fults displays the Purple Heart medal he just recently received as a result of being injured in battle during the Vietnam War more than 40 years ago. (submitted photo)

It only took 40 years or so, but a Fults man wounded in a land mine explosion during the Vietnam War recently received the Purple Heart medal he so richly deserves.

“The wheels of the military grind slowly sometimes,” Merrill Prange said with a chuckle.

Prange, 64, served with the U.S. Army’s 25th Explosive Ordinance Disposal Squad in An Khe, located in the highlands of Vietnam, from the fall of 1968 to 1970. It was in July of that year, Prange said, he lost his right foot and suffered other injuries in a land mine explosion.

The incident resulted in a 20-month hospital stay, first in Vietnam followed by transfers to Japan and then the U.S.

“I saw the orders for (the Purple Heart) back then, but it just kind of moved to the backburner,” he explained. “I had more important concerns, then, about getting better and moving ahead with my life.”

Prange, who retired as Monroe County Treasurer at the end of 2008, said it was a reunion of his military unit about five years ago that restarted the process for him to finally receive the Purple Heart medal.

During the reunion, he was put in touch with a service officer for the Vietnam Veterans of America, and it progressed from there.

Prange said the Department of the Army sent him a letter in October formally announcing that he will receive a medal, and it was officially awarded just days ago.

“It’s nice to be recognized,” Prange said, adding that the Purple Heart is “kind of an honor… or maybe a badge of bad luck.”

Prange currently serves as an adjutant with the Renault American Legion.

Multiple activities are planned throughout the county to honor Vietnam War veterans and all others who served in the military as part of Veterans Day, which is Sunday, Nov. 11.

The country is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War this year. It was in January 1962 when U.S. Army helicopters transported South Vietnamese troops into the jungles outside Saigon for a raid against enemy forces.

Last year, the City of Waterloo joined with the VFW, American Legion and park district to honor local veterans of the Vietnam War during a special Veterans Day ceremony in the Waterloo High School gymnasium.

This year, the city is partnering with those same entities to honor all those area veterans who served during the Vietnam War era but were not honored last year. The public service will take place this Friday night at 7 p.m. in the WHS auditorium.

The featured speaker will be Captain Martin R. Massey, who recently returned from Afghanistan with the Illinois Army National Guard 661st Engineer Company based out of Sparta.

His list of awards and decorations is long, and includes the Bronze Star Medal and Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.
On Sunday, the city will join with the VFW, American Legion and park district for the annual laying of the wreath at the veterans monument in Lakeview Park at 11 a.m.

Also on Sunday, Metzger-Crook VFW Post 6504 will be the site of a special “Brunch and Run” event. Breakfast will be served from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m., followed by a poker run to include three other area VFW locations.  All vehicles are welcome. Proceeds will benefit various veterans programs. Call Ken at 314-603-1559 with any questions.

The Columbia American Legion will also recognize local veterans of the Vietnam War as part of its Veterans Day service planned for 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 12, at the legion hall. Legion officials extend an invitation for all Vietnam War veterans to attend. The featured speaker will be  Ron Scherer, author of the book “The Soldier from Illinois,” which tells the touching true story of World War II veteran Earl Scherer, 96, of Olney. The book details Earl’s landing on Omaha Beach, the trek through Europe and his life following the war.

While encamped in Maastricht, Holland, in 1944, Earl shared his food with a young, starving Dutch boy for a week. The two were recently reunited in the Netherlands more than 50 years later.

Valmeyer American Legion Post 901 will hold its annual Veterans Day Dinner this Sunday at the legion hall. Cocktail hour will be at 5 p.m., with dinner served at 6 p.m. Post 901 will provide the main course and drinks, and auxiliary members will bring salads and desserts. The legion will honor and pay respects to all veterans that evening.

The auxiliary will raffle a handmade quilt after dinner. Raffle tickets will be available during the evening for those wishing to participate.
The Prairie du Rocher American Legion Auxiliary is hosting a chicken-‘n-dumpling dinner from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Sunday.
Veterans eat for free, while the public can eat at a cost of $8 for adults and $4 for children.

Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.