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WWI veteran’s family receives Purple Heart in his honor

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Posted at 5:39 PM, Jul 26, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-27 00:38:11-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah man who died nearly 60 years ago was awarded a military honor Friday.

Walter Anderson from Toquerville Utah served in World War I where he fought on the front lines in Europe. While serving, Walter was seriously affected by mustard gas. He eventually returned to Utah, raised a family, and seldom complained about the ailments that plagued him for the rest of his life.

Blaine Anderson, Walter's son, described his father as a gentle giant. Walter was one of 22,000 Utahns who served in World War I. Upon returning home, Walter and his wife raised five children and he held many government jobs before he died in 1955 from a rare form of melanoma cancer.

Walter's grandson, Bradley Anderson, said he never knew his grandfather, but he's always felt compelled to see his grandfather receive a Purple Heart.

"The Federal Government doesn't award a purple heart lightly," Senator Mike Lee said. "It requires documentation like so many other things, but there are good reasons for this."

The government claimed Walter's documents were destroyed in a fire in St. Louis years ago, but nearly a century after his service, his file was finally found in Maine. It turned out that Walter's own handwritten account of chemical warfare earned him a Purple Heart. The documents also go on to describe six weeks of recovery which took place in a private home in France.

Walter's family finally accepted a Purple Heart on his behalf at the state capitol Friday.

"He never once stopped to complain about his injuries he had sustained in service to his great nation," Lee said. "He did fortunately make record of it, expecting nothing in return."