A World War II veteran is getting the Purple Heart he earned 70 years ago! As a 19 year old, Mr. Faulkner was the sole survival of the B-17 bomber he was a crew member of, when he parachuted to safety. If that experience wasn’t traumatic enough, he continued to serve as he was being returned to the allies and the plane he was on came under attack. He initially turned down the honor because he was so traumatized.
An 89-year-old World War II veteran who turned down a Purple Heart medal in 1944 was decorated with the honor on Saturday.
Richard Faulkner was the lone survivor of a mid-air collision over occupied France, when the B-17 bomber in which he was flying collided with an allied aircraft, slicing his plane in two, Reuters reported. All aboard the B-17 were killed except for the then-19-year-old Faulkner, who parachuted to safety out of the plane’s gun turret.
Wounded, the airman was hidden in a hayloft by a farmer, and eventually connected with French resistance fighters. He was being transported back to Allied lines on a British torpedo bomber when it came under attack by German aircraft, so Faulkner took up gunner duties to replace a man who had been killed by enemy fire.
After he made it Britain in April 1944, after a month behind enemy lines, Faulkner was offered the Purple Heart, but declined the honor. He found it difficult to accept the tragedy, he said.
“It’s just unbelievable that they all died and I didn’t,” Faulker told Reuters before the awards ceremony at his retirement community in western New York.
But about a year ago, Faulkner began to regret his decision, as he wanted something that would allow his grandchildren to remember his military service, his daughter-in-law, Mary Ellen Faulkner, told Reuters.