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Vietnam veteran from San Antonio receives Purple Heart 55 years later

 Robert Briggs, left, chats with Congressman Juaquin Castro, right, before Purple Heart ceremony
Robert Briggs, left, chats with Congressman Juaquin Castro, right, before Purple Heart ceremony

A Vietnam War veteran battling stage four cancer received a Purple Heart Monday for wounds he received in combat 55 years ago. 77-year-old Robert Briggs of San Antonio enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1962, after graduation from Robert E. Lee High School.

The sergeant and radio operator was in the 1st Marine Division, 1st Tank Battalion, C Company when he was ambushed by enemy forces and suffered shrapnel wounds.

Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro pinned the medal on Briggs during a ceremony at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8541 on Austin Highway.

"I will never forget this, ever. This has just been too much for me. This is such an honor, such a great honor," Briggs said.

His family blamed the half-century delay on paper work gone missing after it was filed with the government. The family called on help from veterans organizations to rectify the mistake.

The family thanked the Veterans Affairs Department, the VFW Post and Tony Roman, Texas Chief-of-Staff, Military Order of the Purple Heart for their assistance.

"Fifty-five years later, that's a long wait for something, especially something as cherished as the Purple Heart. The Purple Heart goes way back in history," said daughter Tamatha Briggs.

Congressman Castro said it was a pleasure to pin the medal on Brigg's lapel.

"This is one of the most special things that I get to do as a member of Congress, is presenting a medals to our veterans who have earned them. And today was very special to present this Purple Heart to a veteran who has waited 55 years to get the medal that he has earned," he said.

The Purple Heart is presented to service members who have been wounded or killed because of enemy action while serving in the U.S. military. Established in 1782, nearly 2 million Purple Heart medals have been presented to service members since World War I, according to a news release from Congressman Castro's office.

Copyright 2021 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

Brian Kirkpatrick has been a journalist in Texas most of his life, covering San Antonio news since 1993, including the deadly October 1998 flooding, the arrival of the Toyota plant in 2003, and the base closure and realignments in 2005.