U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Natick, MA 01760-5012
Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
Date: May 15, 2002
Natick, Mass. -- A resident of Dennis will be awarded the Bronze Star for his service during World War II in a ceremony at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick) Community Club at 11 a.m. May 31.
Former Pfc. Douglas Bernard, 82, will receive the award after a process beginning with a conversation he had more than two years ago with his son, George Bernard, a contract specialist at Natick, while driving to Florida.
"He told me he wished he wouldn't have turned down the Purple Heart," George said.
During the final days of the war in Europe with the Germans in full retreat, Douglas became injured after walking 150 miles in a week with a full combat load. The infantryman survived numerous encounters with the German army, but a foot infection almost cost his life.
While recuperating at a military hospital in Paris, an Army official visited the patients and notified them that they were eligible to receive a Purple Heart. After seeing the soldier next to him whose hand was missing from a grenade blast, Douglas declined the award.
"He felt like he didn't deserve it, but he should have received it because his injury was under enemy conditions," George said.
George decided to research the information that would enable his father to get the long-lost medal, but all of his leads evaporated as he couldn't find any records or survivors to confirm his eligibility. With help from a veterans agent, George submitted all the necessary documents to receive any awards that were due.
Unexpectedly, a letter from the Army Review Board notified him that the Purple Heart had been declined, but because he has the Combat Infantryman Badge, he was eligible for an even higher award, the Bronze Star.
Besides the Bronze Star, the letter said that he earned the Presidential Unit Citation and Army Occupation Medal with Germany clasp.
The ceremony will include music from Douglas's son, Robert, and comments from Col. (P) James Kennon, deputy for acquisition and readiness, U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command.
If you are interested in attending the ceremony, please contact the Public Affairs Office at 508-233-5340 or 508-233-5945.
Natick is part of the U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM). For more information about SBCCOM or the Soldier Systems Center (Natick), please visit our website at http://www.sbccom.army.mil.
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