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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Minn. Vietnam vet, Kirkpatrick, gets Purple Heart after 44 years

  • Kirkpatrick was serving as a Navy hospital corpsman in Vietnam in 1968 when someone near him stepped on an explosive device.
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  • More than 40 years after suffering a serious head injury during the Vietnam War, a Bloomington veteran was awarded the Purple Heart on Saturday.
    "It's hard to explain what it means," said Mike Kirkpatrick, 68. "I'm amazed."
    Kirkpatrick was presented his medal, given to all service members hurt or killed by enemy fire, by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar during a ceremony at Bloomington City Hall.
    "It's more than I expected," he said. "I just did my duty."
    Kirkpatrick was serving as a Navy hospital corpsman in Vietnam in 1968 when someone near him stepped on an explosive device. It detonated and sprayed out a shower of shrapnel, including a shard that struck Kirkpatrick in the head. He was so focused on helping a wounded radio operator that he didn't realize blood was streaming from his wound until someone else thrust a wad of field dressing toward his injury, according to a report in the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/Z4UrQv ).
    Two other service members injured in the blast were awarded Purple Hearts, but Kirkpatrick wasn't.
    "I thought I should get one, but I just let it slide," he said.
    Decades later, when Kirkpatrick was reunited with his service buddies, they were surprised to hear he still hadn't received the award. They vowed to help, but didn't get far until they contacted Klobuchar's office, which helped speed up the process.
    Kirkpatrick said he was running errands recently when he got the word he'd waited 44 years to hear: He was finally going to be awarded a Purple Heart.
    "I almost fell over," he said.
    Klobuchar said her office gets two to three inquiries each year about Purple Hearts that were never awarded.
    "It was nothing to do with him. But as you know, at that time, there was a lot going on in our country," she said at the ceremony.
    Kirkpatrick proudly pinned his medal to his collar, and said he'd leave it there for the rest of the day.
    "It's quite the weekend, since (Sunday) is Veterans Day and all," he beamed.

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