NOSC Sioux Falls Helps Honor WWII Purple Heart Recipient

FLANDREAU, S.D. (NNS) — It took over 70 years, but a 94 year-old U.S. Navy veteran finally received the award that his family and friends always knew he deserved.

In a Jan. 27, 2018 ceremony at the William J. Janklow Community Center and Armory in Flandreau, S.D., members of Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) Sioux Falls, elected officials, the local community, and family members gathered to see Sylvan Vigness receive the Purple Heart he earned during service in the Navy during World War II.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard and U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds also attended and spoke at the ceremony.

Lt. Cmdr. Julian Carswell, commanding officer, Navy Operational Support Center Sioux (NOSC) Falls, made introductory remarks.

“Mr. Vigness, despite the decades that have gone by, we are ALL honored to gather together today and say ‘thank you’ for your service to our country,” he said.

Carswell then recounted Vigness’s story to the crowd.

In the early morning of April 1, 1945, as U.S. Marines aboard the Haskell-class attack transport USS Hinsdale (APA-120) were preparing for the day’s assault on the beaches of Okinawa, a kamikaze attack, out of the morning gloom, struck the ship with only a few seconds warning, causing massive damage and injury.

A piece of shrapnel struck Vigness, then a Signalman 3rd Class, in his left eye, permanently blinding it. He never received a Purple Heart because the required medical documentation was lost or destroyed.

After the war, Vigness returned to South Dakota, spending his life working in Flandreau as a teacher and then as a school superintendent, before retiring in 1988.

Over the past 25 years, friends and family have continually worked to see Vigness be decorated with the award that they believed he deserved.

Vigness himself downplayed the need for recognition.

“I’ve gotten along without it this far, so I can get along the rest of the way,” Vigness said in a 2016 interview.

A breakthrough came when Sen. Rounds was able to speak directly with Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, about Vigness’s award. On Jan. 17, 2018, Spencer was able to notify Rounds that Vigness had been awarded the Purple Heart.

“It is an honor to participate in the Purple Heart Medal Ceremony for Mr. Vigness, especially knowing how many years he and his family spent seeking to obtain the Purple Heart,” said Rounds. “My only wish is that he could have been recognized for his service and the injuries he sustained earlier. We are forever thankful to Mr. Vigness for the sacrifices he made to defend our country.”

Reservists from NOSC Sioux Falls, as well as many retired Navy personnel, were on hand to pay tribute to a fellow Sailor receiving his long-delayed due.

“If you look around you today, you will see that I am joined by many men and women in uniform that are here to show their respect for one of our World War II veterans, and the sacrifices he made over seventy years ago,” said Carswell. “Many, in fact, maybe a majority of these uniformed members here are from the reserve military. They do great deeds for our nation.”

Carswell also had the chance to speak with Rounds about the role of the Navy Reserve. There are approximately 100,000 men and women in the Navy Reserve, providing a flexible supply of manpower to support critical missions around the world. Around 3,000 Reservists are mobilized on active duty any given time.

The Navy has long had an impact on South Dakota, through veterans and Reservists who live and work in the state. Though not as visible in other parts of the country, these service members help strengthen the fabric of life in local communities.

For more news from Naval Operational Support Center Sioux Falls, visit www.navy.mil/local/noscsf/.

Article source: http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=104151

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