WATER VALLEY – Mississippi’s senior Senator, the fourth ranking man in the U.S. Senate, participated in Veterans Day ceremonies Monday downtown at the Veterans memorial in Railroad Park.
Senator Thad Cochran paid tribute to Vietnam veteran James Brown who waited more than four decades to receive the Purple Heart he earned while serving in Southeast Asia in 1970.
Brown was wounded during combat action as a Specialist 4th Class in the Army’s 1st Calvary Division and sent to a hospital in Japan for eight months. His Purple Heart never caught up with him.
Brown was able to get the award thanks to Panola County resident Bobby Jefcoat, a former Marine who has helps former service members get through the Veterans Administration system. Jefcoat met Brown’s older brother, John, while stationed at Fort Ord, Calif.
Jefcoat filled out the forms for Brown’s Purple Heart while helping him with a claim for a service-connected medical condition related to Agent Orange exposure.
Senator Cochran said that there would be ceremonies and parades throughout the United States to reflect the gratitude we feel toward our veterans. “Their patriotism and examples of service inspire all of us.”
“We understand that the freedoms we enjoy come with a price,” said the Senator, whose office helped secure service-connected benefits for Brown earlier this year.
“It is sometimes difficult to grasp the extent of the sacrifices and losses experienced by young men and women called upon to defend our nation. But, we can appreciate what they have done and are doing for us.”
“I am pleased that Mr. James Brown of Water Valley will be presented with a Purple Heart today that he earned many years ago,” added Cochran, himself a Navy veteran. “We are glad to be here today to congratulate him and express our appreciation to him and many others who can tell the same story of sacrifice.”
Following Senator Cochran’s remarks, First Lieutenant Joshua Edwards, 289th Water Valley Detachment commander, made the Purple Heart presentation to Brown. By law, the Purple Heart has to be presented by a military officer.
“He should have gotten it a long time ago,” Lt. Edwards said and added tongue-in-cheek, “Things didn’t go as smoothly as they do now in the Army.”
Reading from the citation, Edwards said, “On behalf of the President and a grateful nation, we present you with the Purple Heart for wounds received in the defense of our nation.”
Brown thanked those in attendance for coming to the Veterans Day observance. “Especially my family and classmates of the class of ’67. Our class president’s name is on the wall here,” he noted, referring to Marine Private First Class Eugene Wilson, who died in Quang Tri province in June of 1968.
Earlier in the program James Gordon of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4100 opened the ceremony and introduced Water Valley’s first lady, Betty Hart, who sang the National Anthem.
Mayor Larry Hart welcomed the spectators and guests on behalf of the City of Water Valley and introduced Senator Cochran. Hart added that the senator had done a lot for the city over the years.
Korean veteran Jim Allen spoke the closing prayer with a reminder that many young men and women are still abroad serving in many different places and representing our nation. “Please bless America,” he prayed. “And help America to stand always on the forefront of freedom and democracy for this entire world.”
The program concluded with the traditional playing of “Taps.”