WWII vet: Osceola “Ozzie” Fletcher was a 22-year-old Army private delivering supplies to the Allied forces as they arrived on the coast of France on D-Day when his vehicle was struck by a German missile. The vehicle overturned, killing the driver and wounding Fletcher during the Battle of Normandy in June 1944.
But for more than three-quarters of a century, Fletcher was never recognized for being wounded in action in World War II. Instead, Fletcher said, he and about 2,000 other Black U.S. soldiers who saw action on D-Day were overlooked or denied awards because of racism and the racial inequalities of the country, including in the U.S. armed forces, which were racially segregated at the time.
“Black soldiers didn’t get the Purple Heart. They got injured, damaged, hurt. But they never got wounded,” the Brooklyn native said to local media last year. “Only the White men who were wounded got Purple Hearts.”
That changed Friday in New York for Fletcher when the 99-year-old was awarded the Purple Heart, an honor that his family and military and political leaders said should have been conferred decades ago.
“It was an honor and privilege to pin a long overdue Purple Heart on a great Soldier and member of the Greatest Generation, Mr. Ozzie Fletcher,” Gen. James McConville, chief of staff of the Army, said in a statement to The Washington Post. “This week, we were able to pay tribute to Ozzie for the sacrifices he made in service to our great Nation during World War II.”
In a video message at the ceremony, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., described Fletcher as a “loyal New Yorker” who “served this country with distinction and selflessness even while African American soldiers were treated as second-class citizens,” the New York Daily News reported. After McConville awarded him the medal, Fletcher’s daughter, Jacqueline Streets, said, “The wrong has been righted.”
Read the complete article at: Stripes