Purple Heart awarded 40 years later

Published: Nov. 12, 2013 at 2:57 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 12, 2013 at 4:21 PM EST
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SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - It was a mission that took more than 40 years to fulfill.

A local veteran fought to get the Purple Heart that he says he and a colleague earned after their spy plane was shot down over Vietnam during a secret mission in August 1972.

Army Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Tallon and his partner, Specialist Daniel Richards, had to eject after their plane was hit by a missile. Richardson was killed on the scene, but Tallon survived after landing in a mine field and getting hit by shrapnel.

LTC Tallon says it was no easy task to prove their case for the military award, presented to those who have been wounded or killed while serving in the U.S. military.

"One, the information was classified. And two, it was the very tail end of the way," said Tallon. "The last day of the ground war and the units went home. Nothing was filed up. Paperwork was let go. My paperwork was put in a metal container shot full of machine gun bullet holes. "

After years of pressuring lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Richards was finally awarded the Purple Heart during a ceremony last Saturday. His family accepted the medal on his behalf.

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