Oregon vet to be awarded Purple Heart after nearly 51 years

0824 Oregon veteranSalem, Ore. – A Vietnam War veteran will receive his Purple Heart medal Thursday, nearly 51 years after he was wounded.

According to the Oregon Department of Veteran Affairs Pfc. Ron Esselstyn of Pendleton, Oregon was struck in the head by a moving helicopter while attempting to engage a Viet Cong sniper on August 27, 1965.

Esselstyn was medically discharged from the Army, recovered from his wounds, and began a new career in Umatilla County.

The V.A. said Esselstyn man have been considered ineligible for the Purple Heart due to a misunderstanding of Army regulations. ODVA Director Cameron Smith learned about the issue after meeting with Esselstyn last year.

After a letter was sent to the Army, it was determined that Esselstyn was eligible for the Purple Heart and four other medals he had never received.

“I think it’s just a shame that an Army veteran who was wounded while serving his country had to wait 50-plus years to get his Purple Heart,” ODVA Operations Director Ed Van Dyke said. “I have a soft spot in my heart for those guys.”

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