It had been seventy years since Robert Eagleton was put out of combat duty during the World War II due to a hot shrapnel hit. Before, he was a strapping young man in his military prime but now, the Decatur native is already 91-year-old senior living in the Symphony of Decatur, a nursing home which he is a resident for two years now.
However, Mr. Eagleton had just received his Bronze Star, an honor bestowed on him for the bravery and heroism he had displayed while in combat during the WWII era…a recognition that was seventy years late.
Why the Delay
The discovery of the amiss recognition was the result of a search done by his two children. Daughter Vicki had tried to look for the reason behind why her father did not have any prescription drug coverage from the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
Investigations revealed that a number of Eagleton’s records got lost in a 1973 fire resulting in repeated denies over their family’s applications. Republican US Representative John Duncan of Tennessee interceded successfully for the family’s behalf and a veterans service officer within the district informed her that because her father was a Purple Heart recipient, he should have also been awarded the Bronze Star.
The greatest discovery that she and her brother, Robert G. Eagleton, discovered, nevertheless, laid in the existence of “Bobbie” — the WWII letters their father wrote to their mother during the war. Through the documents, they were able to get a glimpse of that part in their father’s life they had little idea about.
“Our dad has always been an extremely quiet and private man,” Brandt, who is 59, said.
Eagleton got drafted for the the army when he was 21 and married. After undergoing basic training, he was assigned to the Army’s 30th Division, Company A, 119th Infantry Regiment as a rifleman. the company was sent to Omaha Beach four days after the start of Normandy Invasion in June 6, 1944. The unit he was in was responsible for freeing a number of cities in France. On September 1, they crossed over to Belgium and continued liberating cities there as well as in Netherlands before moving on to Germany.
It was there that he was injured due to an artillery shell that went off while he was walking near; many of his comrades died because of the incident.
His stay in the hospital made his letters to their mother more graphic, describing the horrors other soldiers suffered. However, it went back to its good-natured self four days after his hospitalization in Belgium.
The much-waited Bronze Star recognition was given to Eagleton on the 12th commemoration day of the 9/11 attacks.
“It is with great pleasure that I add this award to the others that you’ve gotten,” Lt. Col. Bill Buechsenschuetz of the Macon County Honor Guard said. “Thank you on behalf of the United States Army and the people of the United States for your service.”
Her father has been suffering from vascular dementia and could not speak coherent sentences anymore. But according to Vicki, he seemed to enjoy the ceremony, clapping along and humming along the national Anthem.
That for her was enough of a reward.