Korean War hero gets Purple Heart 62 years late

FESTUS, Mo. (KSDK) - At the American Legion Hall in Festus, Monday was all about yesterday. There was a ceremony to honor 80-year-old Missouri native Dencil Francis.

"He was always strong and he was always kind," said his son, who is also named Dencil.

He was also a hero. In 1951, Francis was sent to the front lines of the Korean War. He remembers being two things, 17-years-old and scared.

"Oh yeah," he said. "Anybody says they ain't is lying I'll tell you."

In one of the bloodiest battles of the war, he was wounded at Heartbreak Ridge.

"We was up on the side of a hill with no place to go," he said through tears. "They wiped most of my outfit out."

At Heartbreak Ridge, 3,700 Americans died. Francis helped carry a wounded soldier for eight hours back to an aid station before even realizing that he had taken shrapnel in his back. When he came home to raise his eight children, he did his best to forget about Korea.

"We would ask him questions and he would cry," said his daughter, Tamara Seeck.

"We didn't like to approach the subject because it really upset him," added his son.

The family recently learned that Dencil had been promised a medal that he never got, and was too humble to pursue. So they contacted Sen. Claire McCaskill.

"I think it's one of the most important jobs I have," said Sen. McCaskill. "Whether we keep our promises to veterans reflects on the character of our nation."

So on Monday at the American Legion Hall, Dencil Francis finally got his Purple Heart. Though it was 62 years late, to get it in front of friends and family, it seemed right on time.

"I want to thank my family for all the effort they put in it," said Francis, speaking to the large crowd gathered for the ceremony.

"I'm just proud of him and what he did and I feel like he's getting his just desserts," said Seeck.

The conflict in Korea is often called the forgotten war, but today a hero was remembered. For veterans like Dencil Francis, it's always too little but never too late.

"My dad was a hero," said his son. "And I'm proud of it."


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