Gordon Cowart, one of the 22,000 United States Marines who fought in the battle for Saipan during World War II, was injured in the line of duty six decades ago and was sent home. But it wasn't until this afternoon he was finally awarded the Purple Heart in the office of US Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA Dist. 1).
It was not only a proud moment for Cowart, but for the four generations of his family who gathered to watch him receive this long-awaited honor.
For Cowart, it seems like a lifetime has passed since he last stepped onto the battlefields of the Second World War. Now surrounded by his loved ones, he's finally being recognized for his bravery.
"It represents something we went through, where other people didn't have to do it," he said.
Now in his late 70s, Cowart is being pinned with the Purple Heart, a medal given to those killed or wounded in battle. For Cowart, it was an honor that went forgotten for 61 long years.
"Quite often when somebody is injured, they really just want to go home," said Rep. Kingston. "Particularly when they've been in some place like the South Pacific, they really aren't worried about a piece of metal, they want to get back to their family and to America."
When Cowart and more his fellow Marines took the Marianas Islands, 2,000 of his comrades were killed on the first day alone. Not knowing if he himself would survive, Cowart spent the next 23 days fighting the Japanese before a severe concussion sent him back home for good.
"When we took the Marianas Islands in the Battle of Saipan, that was the turning point where the Japanese actually got demoralized and for the first time it dawned on them they might lose the war," said Cowart.
By the time the Battle for Saipan ended, 16,000 American lives were lost. Now six decades later, those who were wounded are finally being remembered.
"They are living histories and we need to be very grateful for everything that they've done for us," said Rep. Kingston.
Cowart also received several other medals today, including the World War II Victory medal and the Asian Pacific Campaign medal.