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Veterans Recognized at Ceremony in Columbia County

SOUTH CENTRE TOWNSHIP, Pa. — “It was something that I felt that I had to pursue because my husband was a very humble man, he never talked about what...

SOUTH CENTRE TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- "It was something that I felt that I had to pursue because my husband was a very humble man, he never talked about what he went through in the South Pacific," said Mary Jane Wemple, wife of veteran.

Mary Jane Wemple remembers the sacrifice of her late husband Staff Sergeant William Wemple.

He was a decorated veteran who served in the Pacific during World War II, even receiving the Bronze Star.

Her husband died in 2000 after battling lung cancer.

Mary Jane spent two long years of researching and reaching out to government officials.

She's finally at peace and holding on to her late husband's Purple Heart.

"The only medal he ever talked about was he said 'I never got my purple heart.' So you know before I leave this earth, I have to find out about the purple heart, said Wemple.

Wemple faced many challenges to prove her husband should receive his Purple Heart.

His military records had been destroyed in a fire in Saint Louis.

State Representative David Millard, along with the Military Order of the Purple Heart, stepped in to help Wemple finally get her husband's medal.

"For someone to receive a purple heart, a sacrifice had to have been made. And I certainly overall could not possibly do the job that I do without the sacrifices and service that they committed to," said Millard.

Today isn't just an emotional day for the Wemple family but also worked for the past two years to secure the Purple Heart in Staff Sergeant Wemple's honor.

"It's just a great honor to present this purple heart. It's a long time waiting to come you know I think she deserves it a piece of mind," said Robert Smith, Order of the Purple Heart.

"I've never participated in a purple heart ceremony before, so this day will be extra special to me," said Millard.

When asked what her late husband would have said about this honor she began to laugh.

"He would wonder why all this fuss is going on. You know he would rather drive by an open window and hand it to him. You know he wouldn't go for all of this, said Wemple.

After 65 years Staff Sergeant William Wemple has finally received the recognition he deserved.

At that same ceremony, Vietnam War Veterans were honored with a pin recognizing their service.

Veterans from Columbia County received the pin as a commemorative honor thanking them for their service.

The pin features an eagle on the front and an inscription on the back reading "A grateful nation thanks and honors you."

"You know they weren't treated very well when they came home in the 70s. So this is a way to thank and recognize them and hopefully mend some wounds and start a little bit of healing that we can all get through that," said Chip Gilliland, Chief of Reintegration and Outreach Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

More than 50 veterans were honored during the pinning ceremony in Columbia County.