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56 years later, local man gets Purple Heart for war injury

August 01, 2001

Fifty-six years after Glenn O. Neill was struck in the face by a piece of shrapnel on a battlefield in Italy during World War II, he has received a Purple Heart, a medal he thought was reserved for those with "million dollar injuries like losing an arm or a leg."

With help of Don Vaughn, Imperial County veterans' services officer, 79-year-old Neill was presented his Purple Heart while a patient at El Centro Regional Medical Center awaiting transfer to Valley Convalescent Home in El Centro.

Neill, who has been a patient at ECRMC since suffering a stroke July 18, told friends he never pressed to get the Purple Heart because he thought his wartime injuries weren't serious enough to warrant it.

The battle in which he was injured — Neill says he was lucky not to be more seriously hurt as the shrapnel just missed his eye — earned him a Bronze Star at the time. He also holds a Victory Medal, an American Campaign Medal, a European-African Campaign Medal and a distinguished unit badge.

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Neill was a technician fourth grade with the Headquarters Co., Second Battalion of the 349th Infantry. The Bronze Star was awarded "for meritorious service in combat from March 2 to May 2, 1945, in Italy.

A report recommending him for the Bronze Star reads: "Sgt. Neill laying wire to a leading rifle company, was pinned down by enemy fire and later wounded by a closely exploding artillery shell … this sergeant tirelessly maintained communication lines … under heavy artillery fire …"

Earlier, during the same campaign, the report states: "This soldier laid, serviced and maintained vital communication lines in the midst of bursting artillery shells. His devotion to duty and by his courageous conduct in the face of the enemy, Sgt. Neill has rendered a vital service to the battalion."

Neill served in the U.S. Army from November 1942 until his discharge in November 1945.

Having never married, Neill's only nearby relatives are his sister, Dorothy Paul; nephew, Jon Paul; and close friend Carrie Hutcheson.

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