New Hampshire man receives long-awaited Purple Heart medal

December 14, 2018

More than seven decades after he was wounded in World War II, Melrose native Francis Byrne finally received his Purple Heart.

The 94-year-old veteran was presented the medal at a ceremony at Elliot Hospital in Manchester, N.H., on Friday morning.

It was an honor he’d been waiting years to receive. The moment finally arrived after the Manchester Police Department escorted Byrne from his home in Manchester to the hospital, where he received the long-awaited honor.

Brigadier General David J. Mikolaities, the adjutant general of New Hampshire, and Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey presented the Purple Heart to Byrne at the ceremony, which was attended by US Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, local veterans, and Byrne’s family and friends.

“It was wonderful,” Shaheen said of the ceremony. “He was so thrilled. It was a real celebration.”

Byrne grew up in Melrose and served in the Army from 1943 until 1946. Byrne can still recall how he was injured. A fellow soldier stepped on a land mine. That soldier lost his foot in the explosion, and Byrne got shrapnel in his leg. The officer who was going to document his injury was killed the next morning, so the paperwork was never filed.

Byrne has shrapnel in his leg to this day.

“He really is an American hero,” Shaheen said. “He personifies the greatest generation.”

Shaheen said she wanted to do everything possible to make sure Byrne got the recognition he deserved, and her office worked with Secretary of the Army Mark Esper and his staff to make it happen.

“It should not have taken this long,” she said.

By:  Emily Sweeney
Source: Boston Globe