CHARLESTON, W. Va. (WOWK) — It was just over two years ago that World War II Veteran Wetzel Sanders received his Purple Heart, even though he earned it 76 years earlier. Wetzel, who went by the nickname “Sundown” died over the weekend. But he passed knowing the long, hard fight for his combat medal, was worth it:
“I felt real good. I thought finally after all these years I’m going to get some attention,” said Wetzel Sanders, a Purple Heart recipient.
Sanders, a Lincoln County native, was shot during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. But his platoon sergeant never filed the paperwork with the military. Sanders said the sergeant did not like Americans from this region.
“And he didn’t like the guys from Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee or Virginia. He called us a bunch of hillbillies,” said Wetzel Sanders on September 15, 2017.
When Sanders attended the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, his fellow troops were shocked that he still had not been awarded his Purple Heart. Some even wrote letters to the VA, describing their memories of him being wounded in battle. Sanders then took his case to U.S. Senator Joe Manchin.
“And this is the really beautiful medal of honor,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, (D) West Virginia – Sept. 15, 2017.
“I got a thing from Joe Manchin and i signed a letter giving him permission to help look into it. And it wasn’t but a couple of weeks and he called and said we got your purple heart. I thought I’d have a heart attack” said Sanders.
A Purple Heart recipient, Wetzel “Sundown” Sanders, passed away over the weekend at the age of 96.
“While Wetzel Sanders was an authentic American war hero he was also a humble man. He might say on the day of his passing that while he was lucky enough to make it home, don’t forget to honor those who did not,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.