Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) and Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs presented Western New York veteran Robert Franz with a Purple Heart for injuries suffered during the Vietnam War. The medal, presented to Mr. Franz nearly 47 years to the date of his injury, is the Army veteran’s second Purple Heart.
“With selfless American spirit, Robert Franz was hit not once, but twice during his service and each time returned to fight on in defense of this nation,” said Higgins, a member of the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security. “Many Vietnam veterans returned to an unappreciative public. Today, on behalf of a good and grateful nation, we present this Purple Heart and sincerely say thank you for service and sacrifice.”
“The Clerk’s Office is honored to play a role in helping Mr. Franz obtain this Purple Heart and more so the well deserved but long delayed recognition for his heroism and bravery on behalf of our country,” added Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs.
Private First Class Franz left to fight for his country in Vietnam on December 25, 1965. On March 24, 1966, Franz’s unit was called to help another unit under heavy fire. Two hours into the battle, he was shot in the chest bone by the enemy. With life threatening injuries he was flown by chopper to a nearby hospital where the bullet was removed without morphine due to a shortage. Despite the nearly fatal wound, Mr. Franz returned to the warzone just two weeks later.
On April 24, 1966 PFC Franz was involved in a search and destroy mission on the Cambodian border. Franz was sent to investigate a bridge that had been destroyed and was ambushed on his return. A mortar round exploded a few feet from where he was and shrapnel hit his right arm. He was airlifted by chopper and flown to Saigon for an emergency operation. Weeks later he was back on the battlefield.
PFC Franz was honorably discharged and returned to the United States on December 25, 1966. Interestingly, he began his service right-handed, but was forced to become left-handed while on-duty and remains that way to this date due to his battle injuries.
Mr. Franz received a Purple Heart for his first injury but was never recognized for his second wound. County Clerk Jacobs first learned of the issue when he met Mr. Franz during an outreach event for the Veteran Discount Card Program offered through the Clerk’s office. Mr. Jacobs then reached out to Congressman Higgins for assistance in requesting the medal through the U.S. Department of the Army.
Mr. Franz is Sergeant of Arms for the Honor Guard for Newell-Faulkner American Legion Post 880 in Eden, New York. Members of the Post participated in the medal presentation ceremony which took place in County Hall.
The Purple Heart is awarded to soldiers who have been injured or killed due to hostile actions while serving with the U.S. Armed Services. The original Purple Heart, designated as the Badge of Military Merit, was established by General George Washington in 1782. Mr. Franz received a Purple Heart with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, which indicates that this is his second Purple Heart.