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St. Louis Veteran Receives Long Overdue Purple Heart

Brigadier General James Robinson, left, pins a medal to Leo Hardin's suit coat as Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo) looks on.
Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio

A Korean War veteran from St. Louis received a Purple Heart and three other service awards Friday, six decades late.

Twice wounded during the war, Leo Hardin should have received a Purple Heart with a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, the Combat Infantry Badge, the National Defense Medal and the United Nations Service Medal when he left Korea in 1953. Hardin, a veteran of the Army's 2nd Infantry Division, served in Japan in the late 1940s as well as in Korea as Private First Class from 1950-1953.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s office helped Hardin file the necessary paperwork to receive what he was owed after his family called her office in September.

“It’s my favorite thing to do, correcting this kind of injustice,” said McCaskill, speaking at the medal ceremony Friday at Soldiers Memorial in downtown St. Louis.

Brigadier General James Robinson of the Missouri National Guard presented Hardin with the awards before an audience of his wife, eleven children, and other family members.

It was an emotional experience for Hardin, 84, who wiped his eyes with a handkerchief and paused before taking his turn at the microphone. Now the pastor of Christ Temple First Church in St. Louis, Hardin first spoke of his gratitude to God for surviving the war. Then he spoke of the added difficulty he experienced as part of the first generation of African Americans to serve in the newly integrated army.

“It’s been a hard struggle just trying to get what was due me,” Hardin said. “At the time that I was in the military, it was rough. It was hard to fight so many battles. But thanks be to God that I can say today, I have prevailed.”

The exact reason why Hardin wasn’t presented with his medals 61 years ago is unknown, but it is assumed to be administrative error.

Brigadier General James Robinson, the Rev. Leo Hardin and Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D-Mo.)
Credit Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio
Brigadier General James Robinson, the Rev. Leo Hardin and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.

McCaskill Reacts to Tuesday’s Election

After the ceremony, McCaskill answered questions from reporters about the shift in power in the U.S. Senate, now that Republicans have the majority. She said that not much will change for her personally, because she is already part of a group in the Senate that tries to forge compromise.

“I haven’t always voted with my party,” McCaskill said. "I’ve tried to figure out how we can get to the middle, so I think there’s still going to have to be senators that play that role.”

But, she said, a number of Republicans will have to change their behavior.

“The Republicans were very good at blocking just about everything over the last several years. Now they have a responsibility to in fact produce some positive change for this country,” McCaskill said, adding that she is hopeful that members of her party will be more cooperative than Republicans were when they were in the minority.

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille