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Earl "Sonny" Meyer, a 97-year-old retired farmer and Korean War veteran, was alone at his St. Peter home Monday evening when his phone rang.

"Corporal Meyer," a voice on the other end of the line said. "I'm pleased to tell you the president of the United States is awarding you the Purple Heart."

Meyer was in shock. Now? Seventy-three years after shrapnel struck his thigh during the Korean War, an injury that left a scar and a lifetime of pain?

His attorney, Alan Anderson of Minneapolis, held back tears. He had been fighting the Army Board for Correction of Military Records ever since reading a 2020 article in the Star Tribune about Meyer's daughters' crusade for their father to be honored for his 1951 war injury.

"Earl, you won," Anderson said. "You're getting the medal."

"I never thought I would see this," Meyer told him.

During the Korean War, Meyer served in the infantry. He still thinks of that time daily: sleepless nights in mountain foxholes, chaotic days as a rifleman and machine-gunner, Army buddies dying next to him.

The shrapnel that's still lodged in Meyer's left thigh stems from a June 1951 battle where his platoon was trapped by enemy forces. Mortars rained down, and a piece of shrapnel struck him. A medic bandaged him in the field, telling Meyer he'd put his name in for a Purple Heart, Meyer said. Later, while on a hospital ship, Meyer learned only four guys from his company — 7th Division, 31st Regiment, 2nd Platoon, K Company — survived.

"The medic that patched me up, I never saw him again," Meyer told the Star Tribune on Tuesday. "Whether he made it or not that night? I don't know."

His daughters petitioned the Army to award him the prestigious honor, but again and again, the military rejected the request, citing lack of documentation of his injury.

One reason for the lack of evidence: Meyer never visited an aid station after being bandaged in the field, so medical records from the immediate aftermath don't exist. And records that did exist may have burned in a massive 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, which destroyed about 18 million official military files — including the majority of records for Army personnel discharged between 1912 and 1960.

The document the Army Review Boards Agency sent Meyer's attorney this week was full of military jargon, but the most important sentence was on the first page: "We have requested issuance of the following medal(s): PURPLE HEART."

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, whose father shared a barracks in boot camp with Meyer, lobbied on Meyer's behalf. She was thrilled to hear the news.

"Earl Meyer put his life on the line in defense of our freedoms, and we are forever indebted to him for his service," Klobuchar said in a statement. "Earl earned this Purple Heart, and I am so glad that we were able to work with his family and the Army to get him the recognition he deserves."

Anderson is hoping for a formal ceremony in St. Peter soon. It will honor Meyer, and also remember those who died alongside him.

Because when Anderson told him the news this week, Meyer immediately spoke about soldiers from his platoon who didn't make it home.

Meyer thought of a rifleman he was standing next to when the rifleman was shot in the head by enemy snipers. He wished he knew his name, Meyer told the Star Tribune, so he could tell his parents he didn't suffer.

"It comes every day for 70-some years," Meyer said of the memories. "Just a couple seconds. Sometimes longer. A combat thing, I guess. You don't really tell people about it. You just go ahead."

The morning after he learned he was a Purple Heart recipient, Meyer went to his regular Tuesday coffee klatch at the American Legion with other veterans. One of his daughters brought a cake decorated with a Purple Heart. "It went over pretty well," Meyer said.

Sandy Baker of New Buffalo, Mich., one of Meyer's three daughters, said the only reason her father persisted in his Purple Heart quest was because Anderson convinced him this fight could help other veterans from being caught in the red tape of retrieving lost records.

"It was a pinch-me moment," said Baker, who worked with her sisters for a decade to get her dad his Purple Heart. "Really? Am I dreaming?"