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Veteran receives Purple Heart, 64 years late

From the Middletown Transcript, Middletown DE

If you know where to look, you can still see Nick Swyka’s 64-year-old faded scars from when the shrapnel hit him during the Battle of the Bulge, the infamous World War II battle in which German forces advanced into the Allied front lines along Belgium near Luxembourg and the Ardennes region.

Approximately 76,000 American solders were killed, captured or wounded in the battle, but it only has been recently that Swyka was counted as one of them. After years of fighting through U.S. military bureaucracy with his wife, Mildred and friends, Swyka at last received his Purple Heart July 10.

Swyka, now 87, was born in Philadelphia, but moved to Chesapeake City MD, when he was two years old. He later married Mildred, now 83, a native of Middletown DE. Soon after, on Dec. 12, 1942, he was drafted into the military at 21 years old.

“It was a funny thing,” he said. “When I was 18, I tried to get in. They didn’t want me. When I found a girlfriend and got married, then they wanted me.”

In September 1944, Swyka entered the European Theater as part of the 395th Anti-Tank Company, which was part of the 99th Infantry Division. On Dec. 12, his company moved to Rocherath, Belgium. The Battle of the Bulge began four days later.

Swyka was wounded sometime near Christmas, when a piece of shrapnel exploded 20 feet away from him, cutting his legs, arms, wrist, and near his eye. A medic on the scene, Frank Meyer, bandaged his wounds and gave him a shot of morphine. Instead of going to the aid station and filling out the necessary paperwork there, Swyka elected to go back into battle, as the unit was short of men.

When Swyka was honorably discharged from the military almost two years later at Fort Meade MD, the clerk asked if he had been wounded. Although Swyka said “yes,” the clerk put down “no.”

The next decades of his life were spent raising and providing for his family. However, in 2000, Nick and Mildred decided to try to get his wounds recognized. Mildred had kept some of the documents from that time, but since the initial document about his wound was incorrect and they only had one witness in Meyer, it wasn’t easy.

Throughout the years, several friends, including local American Legion members, tried to help get Swyka’s records changed. Their efforts were rejected. Finally, Lt. General H. Steven Blumb, a Green Beret in the Special Forces, managed to get it done for them.

After 64 years, Nick Swyka has his Purple Heart. “I am proud to have served my country and earned this award,” Nick said.

Last modified Dec. 17, 2008

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