Ceremonies Honor Marine Heroes
Worthington Receives Overdue Purple Heart
by Andy Porter

 

ROSEBURG — Fifty-seven years after being wounded in action, a Coos Bay veteran was presented with his Purple Heart Saturday during ceremonies here.

Robert Worthington, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, was presented with his long-delayed Purple Heart during the dedication of a memorial to another Marine Corps hero, Maj. Gen. Marion E. Carl.

Worthington, 74, was wounded in 1942 by a bayonet thrust from a Japanese soldier while serving on Guadalcanal with the First Marine Division.

Although the Purple Heart is normally awarded to all soldiers wounded in action, on Guadalcanal at that time only soldiers who were evacuated received the decoration.

"If you were wounded like me, they just patched you up and sent you back out," Worthington said in an interview in May.

But while talking on the phone earlier this year with another Guadalcanal veteran, Marine Col. Mitchell Paige, a Medal of Honor winner, Paige urged Worthington to request the overdue decoration.

Worthington did so, but at first was told it couldn’t be issued due to a lack of medical records. But Paige came to Worthington’s aid, endorsing the request by testifying he was an eyewitness to Worthington’s wounding.

At Saturday’s ceremonies, Paige himself was on hand to pin the decoration on Worthington, making the presentation after the formal unveiling of the memorial to Carl.

After an introduction by Marine First Sergeant James Barnett, Paige called Worthington to the podium. Accompanied by the applause of the audience, Worthington walked slowly, but erect and with dignity, to where Paige waited with a smile.

Paige then read from the official certificate that accompanied the medal: This is to certify that the President of the United States of America has awarded the Purple Heart, established by General George Washington at Newberg, NewYork, August 7, 1782, to Robert K. Worthington, United States Marine Corps, for wounds received in action on Guadalcanal during World War II. Given under my hand in the City of Washington, this fifth day of May, 1999, C.C. Krulak, General U.S. Marine Corps, Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Worthington was visibly moved after he walked back to his seat amid the crowd of dignitaries and military officers who were at Saturday’s event.

However, he had very little to say after the event, remarking only that the battle in which he won the medal was "a long ways away."

In poor health now due to a serious heart condition which has been diagnosed as life-threatening, Worthington attended Saturday’s ceremony despite suffering "a mild stroke" the week before, said his wife, Merle Worthington. "

"He was determined to come," she said with a smile. "You know those Marines."

 

Courtesy of The World, 6/15/99

   
 

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