Freshman helps veteran receive Purple Heart - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Freshman helps veteran receive Purple Heart

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

HARRISBURG, AR (KAIT) – A  teenager is being commended by his teachers in Poinsett County for his effort in helping a Vietnam War veteran obtain his Purple Heart. Dalton Cole, who is in the 9th grade at Harrisburg High School, helped Jimmy Butts get his Purple Heart after more than 42 years of waiting. According to Cole, Butts was awarded a Purple Heart for his actions in January, 1967. He was awarded the honor in 1991, but he said he never received the actual award, only a certificate.

"His face kind of changed. It was the first time I've ever seen him smile that hard, or that big," said Cole.

It all started when Cole was assigned a class project last year. For Veteran's Day, he and several other students interviewed veterans of foreign wars for a video. During the interview with Butts, Cole learned he never got the medal.

"I noticed the Purple Heart license plate on his truck. I asked my grandpa about it and all he could tell me what he served in the Vietnam War," said Cole. "It could have been the wrong paperwork, but mostly the government just really doesn't care about that stuff unless you really turn it into a big deal or put a lot of work into trying to get it."

Cole said he helped Butts fill out the necessary papers after Senator Mark Pryor's office told him what to do. Cole contacted Pryor's office last year.

"When we went through different wars, like veterans we could possibly find. We came across Mr. Butts, who was in the Vietnam War, and whenever we were at his home recording him, he talked about receiving the Purple Heart, but never actually getting it," said Cole. "The Purple Heart is received by a soldier who is injured in combat and I don't know why he didn't get it."

Cole said Butts told him he injured his leg after a helicopter crash in Vietnam.

"We asked for a copy of his papers with his ribbons and all of his medals and stuff to copy that. His wife before told us she kept sending them, but they would only send other medals back, not the Purple Heart," said Butts.

After a few months of waiting, Cole said Butts finally got to see his medal.

"He walked into the EAST lab room and told us he got his Purple Heart," said Butts. "It was quite a bit exciting, too. I know how much the Purple Heart can mean because of my cousin Zac. He received two Purple Heart's that time."

Cole, who is a Cadet Private First Class in the Harrisburg JROTC, said he plans on joining the United States Army after high school. He said he'd like to attend West Point.

"I can understand wanting the metal really bad. My cousin Zac can understand the medal because the medal is like saying, the country thanking that soldier for your service and stuff," said Cole.

Cole said his cousin was injured by a rocket-propelled grenade. He said his cousin was working on another soldier's wounds when he jumped on top of his body to protect him from shrapnel.

Cole said all the veterans he talked to said something similar.

"They mentioned that they fought for their country proudly and they loved what they did. When you join the military and take that oath, you live or you die for your country," said Cole.

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.

 

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