Kilgore Man Gets Purple Heart After 60 Years - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

7/3/05-Longview

Kilgore Man Gets Purple Heart After 60 Years

A Kilgore man has received his World War Two medals and purple heart after 61 years.
80-year-old Ray Smith of Kilgore usually doesn't get too excited over Independence Day.

"July the fourth is really just another day when you get to my age, hoping for July 5th," Smith says.

But this fourth is different, 61 years ago 19-year-old private Smith was part of the 29th infantry division that landed in the first wave at Omaha Beach, Normandy. It was June 6th 1944, D-day. Out of 128 men only Smith and one other man hit the beach alive.

"There was 128 on that boat , 8 of us got there, and two of us were still running," he says.

He was wounded twice but after being discharged his service medals and purple heart were lost. "I never ever expected to see them again".

His wife, working through senator John Cornyn's office, arranged to have the medals replaced. On Tuesday Smith was awarded his purple heart and five other service medals.

"It makes me very happy for him, that he can leave something to his nieces and nephews. This with be one fourth that we'll remember for many a year," says Geneva, Smith's wife of 59 years.

He was never bitter about the wait, and true to his generations courage, he always knew it would work out. "Don't ever give up on anything," he says.

Smith is one of five brothers that all fought in World War Two, and returned home safely.

Bob Hallmark reporting, bhallmark@kltv.com

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