Providence VA Medical Center, Rhode Island
A Long Time Coming
The Providence VA Medical Center hosted a presentation of the Purple Heart to a World War II Navy Veteran Monday, Oct. 5, 2015.
Leonard Harten enlisted in the Navy Nov. 14, 1942, and reported to the USS Nauset after he completed sonar training. While conducting operations in the Gulf of Salerno, a bomb from enemy aircraft exploded in close proximity to the Nauset Sept. 9, 1943, setting the ship on fire. Despite recovery efforts from the nearby ships, the USS Nauset hit a mine and sank.
Harten, then 19, suffered injuries during the attack and was forced to abandon ship. He was recovered by a nearby ship and sent to an Army hospital in Africa for treatment.
"We were all lined up," recalled Harten during the presentation ceremony. "And there was a tap on my shoulder, and the guy said, 'We can’t find the paperwork, you won't be getting your medal today.'"
Delayed by missing records, Harten was presented his Purple Heart 72 years later, during a ceremony attended by Dr. Susan MacKenzie, director of the Providence VA Medical Center, Command Master Chief Benjamin Pierson, assigned to U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, Harten's sister, Marilyn Bricker, and other friends, family and supporters. The presentation was made possible when U.S. Senator Jack Reed's office requested that the National Archives review Harten's record and issue any appropriate award.
In addition to presentation of the Purple Heart, a proclamation by Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza was read by his deputy chief of staff, Theresa Agonia, in recognition of Harten's service.
"I can't believe you people for what you've done. This was amazing!" Harten said after the event.