Almost six decades after being injured while serving in the U.S. Army in the Vietnam era, Hobbsan Lawrence Hill received his Purple Heart from the American military Wednesday.
In a surprise presentation ceremony at the Hobbs VFW Hall, arranged by the West Texas VA Health Care System and in the company of family, friends, fellow servicemen and community leaders, Hill admitted he was surprised.
“I’m honored,” he said.
His brother Roy “Buster” Hill said simply, “It was a long time coming.”
Kalautie S. JangDhari, health care system director, told the assembly, “I’ve been in VA 25 years and I don’t know if I’ve seen an event this significant and means so much to so many people.”
Her brief description of Hill’s military service began with his drafting into the U.S. Army in 1959, his basic training at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas and advanced military training at Fort McClellan in Alabama.
“While training as a chemical engineer, Mr. Hill sustained an injury,” JangDhari said, noting that Hill continued for two years of active military service, transferring to the U.S. Army Reserve for another three years, but he never received his Purple Heart.
Hill was a Specialist 4 who went to college after Vietnam to play ball at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, his son Mike Hill said.
Mike Hill added, “He’s been in and out of the truck tire business for many years. … Dad’s owned a couple of restaurants. He’s been in the oilfield business. He’s 82 years old, born in 1936.”
Meanwhile, the elder Hill has been treated by the VA for medical conditions.
JangDhari said her VA medical staff heard that he had never received his Purple Heart and set the ball rolling to rectify the oversight.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Alysia R. Harvey, communications officer for the Joint Base San Antonio, Media Annex, Texas, presented the medal.
“It is an absolute honor for me to be here today to present this medal to you, sir,” Harvey said. “I am so grateful for your service. Thank you so much for all that you’ve done.”
She explained the Purple Heart “is our nation’s oldest military decoration. It was created by George Washington. It was the first medal created for the common troops, for the common man. Unfortunately, it is often presented posthumously. `We are grateful to be able to present it to you today for your service.”
The 82-year-old Hill smiled graciously as the military officer pinned the medal on his chest.
Harvey continued, “This honor is for you, for everything you did while you were serving during the Vietnam era and for all that you continue to do as a representative of the people of your time and for the service members who have been taken away.”