A local war hero, who has served veterans through the Harnett County Veterans Service Court almost since it opened six years ago, finally received the Purple Heart he earned in Vietnam during a session of the court Wednesday.
Superior Court Judge Jackie Lee presented Veteran’s Service Court Mentor Coordinator Gordon Harrington with an official proclamation noting his Purple Heart achievement nearly 50 years after he earned it.
Harrington was shot in the mouth while serving in a heavy cavalry unit during the Vietnam War five decades ago.
The shooting left him with injuries to his face and head, resulting in a hospital stay. He continues to have scars as reminders of the ordeal.
His Purple Heart was pinned to his chest while he was lying in the hospital bed, but he never officially received his proclamation until Wednesday.
Harrington was surprised on what appeared to be a normal day of the court.
“This is something I never expected and I can’t thank you enough,” Harrington said.
Mark Teachey is the Veteran’s Service Court director. He said he is proud of his staff member.
“It is well deserved,” Teachey said. “He finally got the award he deserved.”
Harnett County Veterans Service’s Officer John Elskamp supervised the event. He specializes in helping veterans receive awards and benefits they earned while serving but did not receive for a variety of reasons.
“In this case we did a lot of digging,” Elskamp said. “It took us several months. We had to start from scratch and go from there. It was a long process but we were able to get it done.”
Because Harrington had the actual medal, Elskamp said they at least had a place to start.
“He knew he had received the award but he didn’t have any of the paperwork to go with it,” Elskamp said
Judge Lee presided over the ceremony.
-The Daily Record