SWEETWATER (WATE) – A World War II veteran from Sweetwater is fighting to get his first Purple Heart recognized. Ninety-three-year-old Clinton Riddle says it will bring closure to his life.
Riddle spent two and a half years overseas as a glider co-pilot in the Airborne Division. He fought behind enemy lines for weeks on end, and had to hide in ditches to survive.
“I just got a bull head determination,” Riddle said.
He was awarded two Purple Hearts for injuries to his shoulder in two separate incidents. The first happened when his glider took a nose dive landing in a field. He continued fighting with his unit. He says the Purple Heart he was awarded was not listed when he was honorably discharged. Since it’s not on record, he’s not authorized to wear it.
“I feel like that I’ve been done dirty,” said Riddle.
He showed WATE 6 On Your Side the letters from the Army, telling him they won’t authorize his first Purple Heart because there are no witnesses or evidence. He says the Army told him they didn’t have his records because they were destroyed in a fire in 1973.
“They said they weren’t going to put it on record because it could have been an accident. I wrote them back and said if it hadn’t have been for the enemy, I wouldn’t have been there to start with,” Riddle said.
He says he’s not giving up because he wants his family to have the honor he fought for.
“So many talks about being a hero, hero. I didn’t win the war I just did my part. And I would do it over again if I had to,” said Riddle.
He has enlisted the help of several lawmakers, including Tennessee State Senator Lamar Alexander, who has helped Riddle get past awards.