For nearly eight decades, former Army Private Osceola “Ozzie” Fletcher’s experience in the Battle of Normandy went unrecognized.
Shortly after D-Day in 1944, Fletcher was in the back of a vehicle delivering supplies to Allied troops who were off the coast of France when he and his fellow servicemembers were hit by a German missile. The driver was killed, and Fletcher was left with a large gash on his head.
Fletcher’s wound from that incident and others should have earned him a Purple Heart. But as was the case for many other Black Americans in the military, he was denied the honor due to racism.
Last week, 77 years after the fact and at the age of 99, Fletcher finally received the Purple Heart.
“The problem was that the Black soldiers were considered injured and an injury wasn’t considered an incidence of Purple Heart,” Fletcher’s daughter Jacqueline Streets told CNN. “The White soldiers were considered wounded.”
Generally, for a wound to meet the criteria of the Purple Heart, it must have resulted from either an enemy or hostile act or friendly fire, it must require treatment by a medical officer, and it must be documented in the soldier’s medical record. But Streets said her father knew there wouldn’t be medical records of his wound because he was never hospitalized — “It was always just a matter of patching up and sending back” Black soldiers.
At a ceremony on June 18 in Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, Army officials and other leaders praised Fletcher for his service and acknowledged that what he endured was an injustice.
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SOURCE: CNN, Harmeet Kaur