(WBIR-Maryville) A Blount County Vietnam veteran was honored with a Purple Heart Medal on Thursday night, nearly 47 years late.
John Morse of Maryville served in the Army during the Vietnam War. In 1967, while standing guard duty for the 9th Infantry Division at Bearcat Base, shrapnel hit his face and eyes.
"Immediately after I hit the ground after the attack, I realized when I went to get up that I couldn't see," Morse recalled.
The attack caused him to go blind for eight days. Military leaders tried to award him the Purple Heart but Morse refused to accept it.
"I just felt bad. I felt like the people around me in the hospital deserved it better than I did," he said. Morse held on to the certificate but never filed the paperwork. The Blount County Veterans Affairs office recently assisted Morse with the application.
"It's the medal that was established for those veterans that were wounded by the enemy in combat. It's a special medal," said Veterans Service Officer Nathan Weinbaum.
Morse's Purple Heart came in the mail about a month ago.
"I'm glad after all these years, a little anxious, still a little... you know after 47 years of thinking one way it's hard to turn it around. I don't like the limelight," Morse said.
On Thursday night, prior to the Blount County Commission meeting, a ceremony was held for Morse to receive his Purple Heart.
"I think there's a weight off my shoulders," Morse said, after the ceremony. "You know my thinking was that I didn't deserve it."
Many veterans, including those who served in the Vietnam War, came out to support Morse.
Eight days later, Morse's son-in-law will also be presented with a Purple Heart Medal. Paul Diamond of the 98th Division Army Reserves will receive his medal in a ceremony on March 28 in New Hampshire.
Morse said he plans to put together a shadowbox with his medals and the United States flag. His grandson will one day inherit the shadowbox.