Lewistown veteran receives his Purple Heart after 62 years

Merlin Earlywine receiving his Purple Heart.

It was a Veterans Day ceremony unlike any other in Lewis County Sunday afternoon.

A Lewistown man received the Purple Heart for his heroic service in the Korean war more than 60-years-ago.

"This doesn't happen to 80-year-olds very often," Merlin Earlywine said.

Earlywine was serving a tour in Korea when the Chinese attacked his company late one night. A mortar blast hit him in the shoulder. Earlywine spoke of that day, on Nov. 6 1951, like it was yesterday.

"I was given on paper the purple heart. It'd be 62-years-ago today in the hospital. And that was the last I ever heard of it," Earlywine said.

It was on a recent Honor Flight trip to Washington D.C. that Earlywine revealed he'd never received the actual medal. His daughter, Linda, called on State Sen. Brian Munzlinger for help.

"When we checked into it, actually the records had burned in a fire in St. Louis where they were stored. So, with the records that Mr. Earlywine presented, we were able to determine that, yes, he did earn a Purple Heart," Munzlinger said.

"I never, ever expected to get it. My family took hold and pursued it. And so, it's now history," Earlywine said. "It touched my heart very deep, all of the people and all of my family. I guess you think in life, you're really not worthy, but others think you are."

A well deserved moment in time, 60 years in the making.

Sunday's ceremony was hosted by the Highland High School history club.