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Iowa Veterans Earn Purple Heart Medals

DES MOINES, Iowa -- After waiting for decades, two Iowa military veterans received a Purple Heart medal on Tuesday.

Senator Charles Grassley got emotional as he awarded the veterans their medals in his office at the Federal Building downtown.

"Too often, a person like me that has not served in the military, doesn't know what they go through and we don’t appreciate it," he said.

Purple Hearts are awarded to service members who suffer wounds in combat.

Vietnam veteran Frank Hawk was a member of the Airborn Divison from 1967 through 1969. He was shot while leading a squad of troops dropped off by helicopters to assist other soldiers in danger.

Hawk says he recently looked at his military service records and was reminded he was not labeled as a medal recipient. The Norwalk resident didn't know about Thursday's award ceremony and calls it a surprise nearly 50 years in the making.

"I love it. It's just special. I'm proud of my service and I'm proud to show it," he said. "(War) is pretty tough. There were a lot of years that I couldn’t even talk about it. Now I'm doing better with thanks to the VA."

Don Coderre served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and was discharged in 2007 after he was hit by a mortar. The West Des Moines resident says he tried applying for the medal several years ago but is finally getting the recognition he has been looking for.

"After 10 years, it's finally a door closed on something I don’t have to worry about anymore. I don’t have to try and say this is what happened," says Coderre.

Senator Grassley's office helped both veterans provide documentation to the Army Review Board to receive their medals.