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Retired U.S. Marine receives Purple Heart after 45 years

A soldier wounded in combat--nearly 45 years later, he still has not received the award he deserves.
Arthur Greene in his younger years as a U.S. Marine. (Sean Franklin)
Arthur Greene in his younger years as a U.S. Marine. (Sean Franklin)
WARNER ROBINS, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - A soldier wounded in combat--nearly 45 years later, he still has not received the award he deserves.

The surprise turned to tears of joy quickly.

"And I'm thinking, oh my God, my tears," said retired LCpl. Arthur Greene. "I didn't want to look like a, you know, all mushy and all."

It took a second for the former Marine to realize it.

But his long-awaited honor waited no longer.

"To know what the Purple Heart means," said Arthur's brother Joseph. "It was an honor for me to see my brother receive that award."

The Purple Heart--it's given to a soldier wounded in combat while fighting for our freedom.

"I don't have the words to express my appreciation and gratitude," said Arthur Greene. "I'm very, very thankful."

Arthur received the honor at a surprise ceremony Saturday--nearly 45 years after he was injured in Vietnam.

"The round was able to hit my jaw and it looked like...when I looked in the mirror--I didn't realize how bad it was," said Arthur Greene. "I looked in the mirror--it was just lying open like a razor went down the side of my face."

The award is normally given soon after the injury occurs.

"And I kept being moved around," said Arthur Greene. "I guess the Purple Heart never caught up with me."

At least, not until now.

"And the years just went by, rapidly," said Arthur Greene. "And finally, I was discussing it with my brother not too long ago and he found out that I had one. He never saw it, but I didn't have it personally. So, he went to work."

"What really was touching was for him to receive it and have his family here," said Joseph Greene.

It was a perfect setting for fellow marines to hand over what's been Arthur's for years.

"It's an absolute honor," said Warrant Officer Joshua Rodriguez. "Anytime Americans and the Marine Corps can come together and we can honor him for his sacrifice and his service."

Arthur Greene's military family got in touch with the Marines.

"They volunteered to do it," said Joseph Greene. "And the word they used for me and to me was that once a Marine, always a Marine, and they never leave a Marine behind."

Arthur Greene's scar has faded from the gunshot wound, but what continues is a love for country and family he won't soon forget.

Arthur Greene served in Vietnam from 1968 until 1970.

The Purple Heart is the military's oldest award.

It's given in the name of the President of the United States.

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