Last month, my Grandpa Don Hausmann finally received two Purple Hearts that were awarded to him after his time in the Korean War over 60 years ago. I wrote a story about this overdue honor for his local newspaper, The Bonesteel Enterprise, and it ran today.
Writing this has been a little surreal for me, thinking a lot about who my Grandpa was back then — a man in his 20s, brave, bold and humble. Some things never change, but I do sure wish I could’ve been there with him then, the way my Grandma Berniece got to be. And I do sure wish I could’ve been with my Grandma then, too. I never got a chance to meet her, but I know this celebration would have her so proud. The way we all in the Hausmann family have been feeling lately.
Really proud, really grateful. Here is the story that ran today:
My grandpa Don Hausmann is a patient and virtuous man, among so many other wonderful things. Truly. So, for those who know him, it should not come as a surprise that he waited over 60 years to receive one of the biggest honors of his life. But he did, and at last, we get to tell the story of an overdue celebration.
Of my Grandpa Don, of his bravery and two noble Purple Hearts.
Grandpa served in the Korean War in 1951. He was first wounded on Oct. 15, but it was not a serious wound, so he stayed in combat. “That injury was just from a grenade,” he says, but it did catch a little sliver of his nose. He rubbed the tip of his nose slightly as he told me the story, and I leaned in to look. He blushed. “Oh, you can’t even tell.”
But then he was wounded again on Nov. 4, this time from a mortar attack, where the enemy saturated Grandpa’s area by firing rounds of explosives at low velocities and short ranges. He kept as low as he could in his fox hole but was hit hard in the lower back and transferred to the US Army Hospital in Kobe, Japan, where he remained to recover until Jan. 7, 1952.
During his recovery in Japan, he spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s alone before returning home in January. But during that time — and all the months he was overseas — he had my Grandma Berniece’s letters.
“She wrote me a letter every single day while I was away. Every day.” Grandpa said one of the last letters he received from her had the number 300 on the envelope, indicating it was the 300th letter she had written him. Grandpa married Grandma on July 5, 1952, and all the letters are still safe today in a cedar chest at home.
“They even still have the little ribbon that ties them all together.” He blushed again.
After his recovery, Grandpa was stationed at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, until he was officially released from the Army on Oct. 9, 1952. On Feb. 3, 1953, Grandpa received notification that he would be awarded the Purple Heart. The official papers from the US Army Hospital in Japan read as follows:
“Under the provisions of AR 600–45, the Purple Heart, for wounds received in action against the enemy, is awarded the following personnel: f. Private First Class Donald J. Hausmann, US 55087811, Company B, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, United States Army. Wounded in action near Nong-Dong, North Korea, on 4 November 1951. Entered the Federal Service from South Dakota.”
But other than a formal letter, nothing was mentioned about Grandpa actually receiving the award.
And so he never did.
Years went by. Life went on. He and Grandma Berniece raised six children. Those six children grew to raise their own families, and all this time, the Purple Heart was missing from Grandpa’s lapel.
Until now. Last March, Joe Laber, a fellow veteran of the Bonesteel American Legion Post 36, made a direct call to the office of Congresswoman Kristi Noem. He mentioned that Grandpa had gone all these years without ever actually receiving his Purple Heart. Grandpa had insisted that it didn’t matter, and that he was just “happy to be alive and home safe,” but Noem took action anyway, and she acted fast.
Last month, Grandpa — and all of us! — were invited to the annual American Legion State Convention in Huron, South Dakota, where they carved out a special time to award Grandpa with his Purple Heart. Noem introduced Grandpa and then welcomed him to the stage, where she finally decorated his lapel as it should be. After shaking hands, Grandpa said a few words.
“No matter when I got (this award), even if it was 62 years ago, I am humbled by the fact that I earned it and I got it with all of your help,” Grandpa said. “So thank you for that. And thanks to all the Legionnaires from 36, great ol’ 36. I wish to thank all of them. I’ll try my best to live up to what this all stands for. It’s quite an honor, and I’ll treasure it for the rest of my life.”
That’s the thing about my grandpa. In a world where we crave attention more than ever, and it’s so easy to be boastful, Grandpa’s just not. Family, kindness, generosity and faith matter more to him. And that’s the kind of man my grandpa is.
Thank you to Congresswoman Noem for taking the time to celebrate Grandpa Don’s bravery and overdue honor. And thank you to my grandpa for teaching my family and me the true definition of a veteran.
We didn’t get to be there when my Grandpa received news of his Purple Hearts 62 years ago. I wonder what that celebration was like then, how joyful Grandma must’ve been for her brave husband. But we’re here for you now, Grandpa, and this journey with you has been a beautiful celebration for all us — a celebration of your gallantry, your courage and, most importantly, your heart.
Watch the pinning and Grandpa’s speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CErEfhOUmg