A 99-Year-Old Black WWII Veteran Finally Receives Purple Heart After Being Denied Due to Racism

Former Army Private Osceola “Ozzie” Fletcher’s participation in the Battle of Normandy went unacknowledged for nearly eight decades.

Fletcher was riding in the back of a vehicle bringing supplies to Allied forces stationed off the coast of France shortly after D-Day in 1944 when he and his fellow servicemen were struck by a German missile. The driver was killed, while Fletcher sustained a significant gash to the head.

Fletcher’s injuries sustained in that, and other incidents should have earned him a Purple Heart. However, in a similar issue with many other African Americans serving in the military, he was refused the distinction due to prejudice.

Fletcher finally earned the Purple Heart last Monday, 77 years after the fact and at the age of 99.

“The problem was that the Black soldiers were considered injured, and an injury wasn’t considered an incidence of Purple Heart,” Fletcher’s daughter Jacqueline Streets told CNN. “The White soldiers were considered wounded.”

In general, for a wound to qualify for the Purple Heart, it must have been caused by an enemy or hostile act or friendly fire, require medical treatment and be documented in the soldier’s medical record. However, Streets stated that her father was aware that no medical records would exist for his wound because he was never hospitalized – “it was always a matter of patching up and sending back” Black soldiers.

Army officials honored Fletcher for his service and acknowledged that what he underwent was an injustice during a ceremony on June 18 in Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn.

“Today, we pay long-overdue tribute for the sacrifices he made to our nation and for free people everywhere,” US Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said during the June 18 event, according to the New York Daily News.

“It’s about time,” Fletcher said as he sat in his wheelchair dressed in military gear.

For decades, she claimed, her father never spoke of his World War II involvement. After returning to the United States, he worked as a high school teacher, a sergeant with the New York Police Department, and a community relations specialist with the Brooklyn district attorney’s office.