Veteran Shares His Heart

Soldier Shares Heart

By Debbie Gregory.

There is an unspoken honor among Veterans that spans generations, branches and ethnicity. As an example, many of the non-profit organizations that serve and benefit the Veteran community are started by those who are Veterans themselves. But there are also instances that occur between individual Veterans that are just as big and just as meaningful.

In 2012, First Sgt. Gregory Swanson of the Indiana Army National Guard’s 387th Military Police Company unit was awarded the Purple Heart. Swanson was wounded when the armored truck he was riding in was attacked in Afghanistan. The truck’s driver was killed, and everyone in the truck, including Swanson, was injured by RPG and small arms fire. Swanson still carries pieces of shrapnel in his leg. But he returned to duty that same deployment.

Leonard Wayne McIntosh served in World War II. From 1942-45 he was assigned to the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. The Division was among the first American ground forces to see combat, starting in North Africa. They went on to fight the Axis Powers in Sicily, mainland Italy, France, Germany and Austria. At one point, the 3rd Infantry had survived 531 days of combat,  almost a year and a half of daily combat! The division is also known for suffering the most losses in a single day during the war when on February 29, 1944 the 3rd Infantry Division lost 900 soldiers while defending against a German counter-attack in the Italian city of Anzio.

McIntosh was wounded in southern France when a bomb went off in the building that he and another soldier were sent to clear. He woke up days later in a hospital in London, England. He was reported as Missing in Action long enough for his father to receive an MIA notice back home in Indiana. McIntosh would carry the scars of war on his neck and fingers for the rest of his life.

The wound ended McIntosh’s involvement with the war. He was sent home from England and discharged.  He even received a small pension from the Army. But McIntosh never received a Purple Heart for the wounds that he received.

McIntosh and his family repeatedly appealed to the Army for the award. But confusions, possibly due to his one-time MIA status, in addition to a 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center that reportedly destroyed as many as 18 million military personnel files, led to McIntosh forgoing the honor that he deserved.

McIntosh passed away on January 26, 2014. He lived to be 88 years old. He was married for 60 years, had five children and sixteen grandchildren. But this wounded Army Vet was never awarded the Purple Heart.

First Sergeant Swanson is friends with McIntosh’s youngest son, Kenny. He has known about the older Veteran’s Purple Heart predicament and admitted to having felt guilty about his own medal, considering all that the older McIntosh fought, suffered and endured through.

Just before the funeral, Swanson presented McIntosh’s children with a Purple Heart for their father. But this medal was not issued from the Army or a politician. This medal was given, deservedly, from one Veteran to another. Swanson’s gesture has touched McIntosh’s family in their time of mourning, and continues to touch everyone who reads the story. Just another example of how small deeds can have a huge impact others.