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Brooklyn Exponent: Honoring our best

November 11, 2016
Tim In The News
After many years following his service and subsequent death from Korean War-inflicted disease, U.S. Army Sgt. Paul Leander Rohr was awarded the prestigious Purple Heart Medal – received in his name by his sister Josephine "Nelie" Denny – last week in a veterans ceremony at the Onsted American Legion post. Denny was said to have been very close to her brother.

"After all these years to be going through this is heartbreaking," said Denny holding back tears. "He deserves it."

The medal was presented to Denny by Maj. Gen. Leonard Isabelle, Commander of the Michigan Air National Guard and by Congressman Tim Walberg with several members of her family at her side.

The day began with the Jackson College Jazz Band performing patriotic music, an invocation by the Rev. Tom McMichael, and welcoming remarks by Walberg.

World War II U.S. Army Air Force veterans Charles Peart and Carlos Barricklaw Jr. were the first honorees, though Barricklaw was unable to attend the ceremony.

"I know it's a rough life sometimes, but I enjoyed my time in the service," Peart said.

"Thank you for your service and your willingness to stand for this country's greatest ideals," Walberg said in honoring them.

Next several local Vietnam veterans were honored and received lapel pins and certificates from Walberg, to recognized them and thank them for their service.

"It's actually pretty special and hard to believe it's been this many years," said Vietnam veteran Tom Luck. "It's an honor."

Fellow Vietnam veteran William Ruttkofsky was pleased to get long overdue positive recognition for his service.

"I think it's good. Vietnam veterans deserve something like this after coming home and getting rocks thrown at us when we got off the plane when we were trying to protect our country."

Walberg acknowledged that when many Vietnam veterans returned home it was a dark day in America.

"I think we've learned from that," he said.

"On behalf of a grateful nation, it is a privilege to present you with this symbol of thanks and to honor you for your service, valor and sacrifice when our country needed you," Walberg said prior to handing out the pins and Purple Heart Medal.

"We need to take care of the folks who served us so well – our American heroes," said Isabelle.

It was a special day for the Rohr family for the great honor bestowed upon Sgt. Rohr in the Purple Heart Medal.

The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the President to members of the armed forces of the United States who are wounded or killed by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy. It is often awarded posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. With its forerunner, the Badge of Military Merit, which took the form of a heart made of purple cloth, the Purple Heart is the oldest military award still given to U.S. military members.

Rohr was the youngest of five children, three years younger than his sister Nelie. Their mother died of complications from childbirth shortly after Rohr was born.

"He was so funny!" Nelie said with a smile on her face.

Born in 1930, when Rohr turned 18 he decided to enlist in the Army for four years. He was sent to Osaka, Japan, where he worked in the Army hospital. He loved it there so much that when the Army wanted him to re-enlist, he agreed with the understanding that he would return to Osaka.

However, while in Seattle awaiting transport to Japan, his orders were changed and he was sent to Korea. Then-Corporal Rohr was part of the 2nd Infantry Division and was involved in a combat mission in November 1950. He was taken
Prisoner of War on Nov. 26, 1950, and kept in captivity at Pyokong, N. Korea where he died on March 12, 1951, of disease incurred as the result of his capture. His remains were not recovered. Rohr was promoted to sergeant while in MIA status and awarded the Purple Heart Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Prisoner of War Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the United States Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.

In his remarks, Walberg thanked the Onsted Senior Center for hosting the event.

This article originally appeared in the November 8 edition of the Brooklyn Exponent.