Reporting Lauren Leamanczyk
NEWMARKET, NH (CBS) – It took more than 40 years, but today Tom Roy finally holds his Purple Heart. It was pinned to his chest at a ceremony in Manchester, New Hampshire this week.
“I had such a lump in my throat. And they said do you have anything to say. Who can talk? I was speechless,” he recalls.
Tom’s story began in 1970 in Vietnam. Tom was in the mess hall when it was hit by a rocket. It’s a memory that’s still hard to talk about.
“It was a big explosion,” he said. “I landed in some mud. I had some shrapnel, nothing serious. Yeah it was a mess.”
Tom’s commanding officer put his name in for a Purple Heart. The Purple Heart certificate made it to his mother’s house, but it was never recorded in his military file and he never received the medal.
Five years ago he set out to correct the record. The military denied him twice, saying he didn’t have enough proof. Frustrated, he turned to then Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter and later to Senator Jeanne Shaheen.
Their staff members tracked down the original orders in an archive in Maryland.
The award has some practical benefits for his care with the VA.
But what Tom is really interested in is recognition for his unit, the 118th AHC. In his mind it’s for the men who served and died all those years ago.
“It’s not for me,” he says choking up. “The 118th.”