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No. 2 Top Story of 2012: Wiggins Place Man Gets His Purple Heart 67 Years Later

Donald Arnold received the prestigious award in July for his service in World War II.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published on July 6, 2012. 

“I wasn’t thinking,” said U.S. Army Pvt. Donald Arnold.

“We started to get shot at very heavily, and I jumped on the hood of a Jeep and hollered for somebody to drive it to go to the wounded men.” He spoke slowly.

“And I thought, well, with the red cross on my helmet, they wouldn’t shoot at me. But it wasn’t true.” He took a long pause, staring straight ahead, then went on.

“So we drove through town, picking up what we could of wounded men to get them out of harm’s way.”

Arnold, a Cleveland Heights native who lived for several years in Shaker Heights and Beachwood, was serving in Schildgen, Germany on April 14, 1945. He was 22.

“The human mind is funny,” said Donald Arnold in his living room at Wiggins Place in Beachwood. “It blocks out the worst experiences.”

Hanging on the wall is a certificate for a silver star for valor in the face of an enemy, dated from an incident that occurred April 15, 1945.

And though a certificate below the Silver Star cites an injury Arnold suffered in that incident, he never got his Purple Heart.

“I pulled the shrapnel out, bandaged my leg and went back to work,” said Arnold.

Later, there were forms that needed to be filled out, that usually would have been done by the medic who treated Arnold, so he would be commended for his injury. But that day, when Arnold was hit, he was the last living medic in the company. Paperwork would have to wait.

“We suffered a lot of casualties that day. A lot of fellows wounded…I kept taking care of the wounded men. That’s what a medic did. Gave them emergency first aid and tried to evacuate them.”

There was a long silence, and then Arnold broke it. “I will tell you an interesting story, though.”

His eyes lit up as he told the story of delivering a baby in a village his unit had been fighting the Germans for control of. He had never performed the procedure, had only seen it done a few times.

“I was a 22-year-old, not afraid of anything,” Arnold chuckled. “I delivered a healthy little baby boy.”

Now 89, he lives in Wiggins Place with his second wife Beverly, who he met at the facility.

When they moved in together, Beverly Arnold found the certificates and asked her new husband how he got the Silver Star.

“And I said to him, how is it that you get a Silver Star with a citation mentioning that you were wounded in war … and you can’t get a medal?” she said.

The couple tried Veteran’s Affairs and the American Legion, but could not get through the red tape to prove to the federal government that he deserved the Purple Heart. Finally, they got help from U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, who will be presenting Arnold with the award July 16.

“It’s a medal, he should have it. It’s sort of like capping his life,” said Beverly Arnold.

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