Veteran receives medals 57 years after war

GOLDEN VALLEY - One of Billy F. Murphy's childhood heroes was Audie Murphy, a distant cousin who became a decorated World War II soldier and well-known actor.

Bill Murphy continued the family tradition by serving in his country's military, and three of his children have done likewise. One son-in-law and three grandsons are serving now. His grandsons are in Iraq.

There were politicians and other dignitaries present to witness retired Corporal Billy Murphy receiving the medals he earned 57 years ago, but the most important guests attending the Aug. 4 ceremonies were his family members.

Murphy's wife, Norma, and their children Cassandra Lougheed, David Murphy, William Murphy and Susan Hohstadt; their children, Heather Huddleston and Hoang Murphy, nephew Mike Murphy; great niece Tessa Murphy; great-grand niece Taylor Murphy; and their families were all present to witness the family patriarch receiving the medals and honors he earned in the Korean War.

"This is living history," said 12-year-old Johnathon Kozakiewicz, who attended with his father, Chris Kozakiewicz, VFW Department of Arizona service commander.

Also at the presentation at Golden Valley VFW Post 2555 were state Sen. Ron Gould (R-Lake Havasu); and VFW District 8 representatives Floyd Nash, commander; Stanley Wilkinson, senior vice commander; Robert Wilson, junior vice commander; and Steve Fairchild, judge advocate.

Murphy's son-in-law, Major Mark Hohstadt, of Minnesota, had the honor of presenting the long-awaited medals, which included a purple heart with bronze oak leaf cluster, a combat medical badge, a bronze star with valor and an air medal with the numeral 1 for his actions while under hostile fire.

Murphy is the Post 2555 surgeon. He was born on Aug. 2, 1931, in Wapanucka, Okla.

Murphy enlisted in the Army on Sept. 21, 1946, and completed Medical Field Service School at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, as a medical corpsman.

He was assigned to Fort Sill, Okla. Upon outbreak of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula, his unit left for Fort Lewis, Wash., and was deployed by sea on Aug. 5, 1950, to Korea.

Murphy was wounded in enemy action in August and again in September 1950.

He received a permanent disability retirement on Sept. 30, 1951, for those injuries and was awarded the purple heart with bronze oak leaf cluster and the combat medical badge.

Those medals were never received.

When Murphy returned home from Korea, he spent the following two years recuperating from his wounds and worked various jobs when he was able at the hospital in Fort Sam Houston.

He received his official medical discharge from the Army and worked various jobs. One that kept him occupied for 48 years was professional truck driving.

He competed in the Oklahoma state truck rodeos and the national truck rodeo.

He also judged the rodeos and was part of the American Truck Association national safety committee.

His wife joined him on the road for 15 years after their eight children were all grown. They retired in 2005. They also have 16 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

On Feb. 26 of this year, the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Mo., provided the medals to Murphy.

Unknown to Murphy, additional information in his personnel record reflected that he had been recommended for and awarded the bronze star with valor and the air medal for his heroic actions under hostile fire.

Gould said he was pleased to be a witness to the presentation of medals Murphy earned 57 years ago.

"It is my honor to be included in this ceremony and to stand up here among heroes like Bill Murphy."

He said the United States doesn't want to support an 18-month war, when every service man and woman knows wars aren't over in that short time.

"This country doesn't have the stomach for war," Gould said. "America owes a debt to our veterans and we need to make sure we take care of them."

Woodrow Cruse, Post commander, said it was with "thoughtful consideration and a sense of pride that I ... honor one of our own today."

He said America's service personnel are too often forgotten for their actions in foreign lands, and that no veteran's actions should go unnoticed.

"On this day we can say to one of our own, 'Others who have walked in your boots recognize your duty to God, country and your comrades in battle. We will not forget your service,'" Cruse said.

Murphy said he was happy to accept the awards, "not for myself, but for the boys."

"I can't help it," he said, tapping his chest, tears welling up in his eyes. "It hurts. It's been 57 years and I remember it all. I remember them."