New Mexico family continues to seek Purple Heart for father
Jul. 16, 2017
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico family is renewing an effort to seek a Purple Heart for a family member who was injured during a firefight on a battlefield in Morocco and spent 14 months as a prisoner.
George Gay left his farm in Hatch to enlist in the Army during World War II, Las Cruces Sun-News reported (http://bit.ly/2tYCubb). After three years, Gay made it back home with many injuries including three gunshot wounds in his left leg, but was never awarded a Purple Heart while he was alive.
He died in 1974. He was 57 years old.
George Gay's son, Hubert, said the family has tried three times to seek the recognition, but they have been told that there is no record of Gay receiving injuries as of result of hostile action.
"I was a Vietnam veteran; my son was a Marine in the Persian Gulf War," he said, noting this will be his last attempt to seek the Purple Heart for his father. "It's a veteran tradition. I feel my dad should get the ribbons he deserved."
Official documents presented to the Sun-News state that Gay was honorably discharged from the Army without wounds in action. The documents also contradicted the number of battles George Gay had said he fought in.
Hubert Gay said his mother pushed his father into disputing those documents so he could get the disability pay they believed he deserved. Although two different doctors disagreed on what kind of firearm George Gay's wounds came from, a Veterans Affair office in Albuquerque agreed to slightly increase his disability payments in 1950.
But a Purple Heart did not follow.
In 2010, Hubert Gay decided reach out to the National Personnel Record Center in Missouri for records of his father's service, but he was informed that a fire destroyed many of their records from the time his father served. Hubert Gay later filed a correction of military records form with the Army Review Boards Agency in Virginia. But it rejected the case, saying that there was insufficient evidence.
Las Cruces resident Frances Williams, who worked with Hubert Gay on a committee that established a Vietnam War monument, decided to join the effort while she worked on the project. She thinks the fact that the federal government agreed to pay George Gay for disability, but denied him a Purple Heart, is contradictory.
"When he got inducted at Fort Bliss, he was in very good condition," she said.
Hubert Gay sent the packet that Williams helped him assemble to a U.S. senator and congressman and hopes to resubmit the case one last time to the Army board. Williams has also enlisted some of her military connections to help with the latest effort.
Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, http://www.lcsun-news.com