66 years later, Korean War veterans get their Purple Hearts

Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs hworked to track down paperwork and medals for Aberdeen Korean War Veterans, Irv Stephens (middle) and Jim Evans (right). (Photo: KING / Drew Mikkelsen)
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SEATTLE, Wash. (KING) -- It’s never too late to say thank you.

“My appreciation runs very, very deep,” said Irv Stephens of Aberdeen, Wash., one of two Korean War veterans who received Purple Heart Medals Thursday, 66 years after they earned them.

Stephens, now 85, broke his arm during an ambush in Korea in November of 1950.

Jim Evans, 89, suffered shrapnel wounds from a shell explosion in 1951.

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Both men repeatedly tried to get their medals in the decades following the war.

“I’ve always had the certificate, but I never did get the medal,” said Stephens. “They told me my records were burned.”

Stephens, who lives in Raymond, said he’s glad he can pass on his medal to his family.

“It means something to me for my children,” said Stephens.

Evans, who lives near Hoquiam, still deals with post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in Korea. He said receiving the medal could help with his recovery.

“It’s fulfilling. It completes the circle,” said Evans.

Fellow-Marine Chaplain Ron Black contacted the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs about the missing medals.

The state investigated and secured the medals from the military.

Department Director Alfie Alvarado-Ramos presented them during a veteran’s town hall in Aberdeen.

“It’s due time for us to be able to do that,” said Alvarado-Ramos.

It’s not clear why the men did not originally receive their medals.

The state’s Department of Veterans Affairs encourages veterans who have not received medals they earned to contact the department at  benefits@dva.wa.gov or 1-800-562-2308.