LEDYARD, Conn. – A local World War II veteran received a Purple Heart medal on Friday, more than 70 years after he was wounded in the South Pacific.
The medal was presented to 89-year-old Frank Bennett at his Ledyard home by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
Bennett was serving aboard the USS Little when it was attacked by Japanese forces at Guadalcanal on Sept. 5, 1942. He suffered shrapnel wounds and burns and was stranded in the water for 11 hours before being rescued.
He was treated on a ship bound for Pearl Harbor, but he told New London's The Day newspaper he didn't receive the Purple Heart earlier because he wasn't treated at a hospital in Hawaii. Instead, he was sent to San Diego and then home to Philadelphia to recover.
He told the newspaper his family encouraged him to ask for the medal.
"My wife said, `How come you never got it?' and my three sons and grandchildren said, `You should have it,"' Bennett said. "That is when the letter writing started."
After Bennett's injury, he returned to duty after a month of rest and served in the Navy until his retirement in 1960.
"I feel very honored and surprised because this is something I didn't expect to get," Bennett told The Day. "But apparently they looked through my records and found out it was well deserved. The senator said I deserved it a long time ago. I'm very proud."