Russell Rodgers’ Purple Heart Awarded Seven Decades Later
Russell Rodgers has finally received his Purple Heart, 70 years after fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. Mr. Rodgers, 92, received the medal from a very special person, his grandson Army Sgt. First Class Russ Rodger.
It was a very long time coming for Russell Rodgers, who was awarded a Purple Heart at a ceremony in front of hundreds of friends and family members in Nevada.
The event took place over the weekend at a nursing home near Reno. Rodgers, who is 92 years old strong, participated in World War II’s the Battle of the Bulge, which occurred between December 16, 1944, and January 25, 1945, in The Ardennes located between Belgium and Luxembourg.
There were 89,500 American casualties, between 67,459- 125,000 German causalities and 1,408 British casualties. A little bit more about the Battle of the Bulge:
“The Battle of the Bulge (the term was coined by contemporary press to describe the way the Allied front line bulged inward on wartime news maps.) (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945) was a major German offensive campaign launched through the densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in Belgium, France, and Luxembourg on the Western Front toward the end of World War II in Europe. The surprise attack caught the Allied forces completely off guard. United States forces bore the brunt of the attack and incurred their highest casualties for any operation during the war. The battle also severely depleted Germany’s armored forces on the western front, and Germany was largely unable to replace them. German personnel, and later Luftwaffe aircraft (in the concluding stages of the engagement), also sustained heavy losses.”
Russell Rodgers was a private first class in the Army’s 101st Airborne’s 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment. Mr. Rodgers was among the 47,500 Americans wounded while fighting the Germans in the frozen forests of Belgium.
Rodgers received severe frostbite, earning him nearly three months in an English hospital and almost costing him both of his feet. He was supposed to receive his medal decades ago, but the loss of his records in a Chicago fire made it impossible.
However, his family never gave up their efforts to right that wrong, and two months ago, Rodgers’ daughter, Debbie Prioiello, got the news she was waiting for. Prioiello contacted family members from all across the country including Tennessee and Colorado for the long overdue ceremony. Prioiello said:
“This was something we didn’t want to just hand to him. We wanted to make it special. We are very proud of him. It was such an emotional day. This was a long time coming.”
Talking to local media, Rodgers explained why he joined the army:
“I joined the Airborne to see if they were crazy or brave, and I’ve learned that they are both.”
The World War II veteran added:
“Being a part of them is a dream come true for me when I thought I wouldn’t even get into the military. This is just icing on the cake, to be awarded this.”
It was an extra special event for Army Sgt. First Class Russ Rodgers, a Green Beret, was the one, who pinned the medal on his grandfather’s jump jacket. An emotional Rodgers confessed:
“I told him that I was going to be crying all day. Having him pin me was so awesome. I am still having trouble sleeping. Every time I try to sleep, I see all of the people there. I never expected any of this. It is so overwhelming.”
Russell Rodgers’ love for the military has also been passed on to his granddaughter, Kelsey Sedell, who is a staff sergeant in the 101st as a flight paramedic, and her husband is also with the 101st in the infantry in pilot training.