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Son Surprises WWII Veteran Hero With Purple Heart


Retired Marine Corps Corporal Samuel “Lee” Anderson was only 19 years old when a landmine blast knocked him unconscious in Iwo Jima.

Far away from home, heroes sacrifice their lives for the sake of their country so that the entire nation can sleep in peace. Their stories of heroism and passion are larger than life. They are “Legends” whose long living tales not only make your chests puff with pride but whose sacrifices and unconditional love for the country will leave your eyes a little moist.

These Heroes are men of steel, standing tall in the harshest conditions. They take no heed inscribing the symbol of bravery and devotion on their chests, whether it’s freezing cold or scorching heat.

Yes, they all are heroes, each and every one of them. But there are a few whose stories have become somewhat legendary, stories that deserve to be shared and told over and over again. And Retired Marine Corps Cpl. Samuel “Lee” Anderson is one such hero.

It was a regular Wednesday morning for Lee Anderson. Nothing special- same sun, same people, same cafe and same life too. The 91-year-old WWII veteran was headed to the same coffee shop as usual, for the same breakfast with the same old friends as always.

It was 8:30 sharp when he placed his orders- exactly as he always did, having no idea that by the end of his last bite he will receive the honor of his lifetime with A Purple Heart — 72 years after being wounded.

Samuel “Lee” Anderson was just a 19-year-old corporal when he fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima. After 21 days of intense fighting, on March 11, 1945, a landmine blast, and Anderson suffered a concussion that knocked him unconscious.

He was immediately taken off the island to a military hospital before spending four months recuperating at Camp Pendleton.

Anderson couldn’t recall how long he was out, all he remembers was the happiness of finally taking a shower when he got to the hospital. Eventually, like many other war veterans, he settled down and started a family, working as a plumber.

Anderson never opened up about the war, not even about losing his best friend “almost immediately” on Iwo Jima and how he was so disoriented after his injury that he almost pushed his pistol into the stomach of the doctor who was rescuing him.

Todd Anderson, a retired Glendale police lieutenant who happens to be his son, said that his father’s time in Iwo Jima never came up during family dinners. Hard work and plumbing were regular topics of discussion but never Iwo Jima. His wounds and humbleness made him eligible for the medal: Purple Heart, awarded to all military members injured in war, even though Anderson has actually never applied for the honor and would have never received it if not for his children.

Then one day, Todd Anderson and his brothers decided to take a look at their father’s service record. What they found puffed their heart, “When we started looking into his military records … it said wounded in action in Iwo Jima and there was no record of his Purple Heart.” said Todd Anderson.

“What we found out clearly on his [discharge from], right out the gate, was that he was wounded.” “Down below it, in remarks, it said ‘no record of an award of Purple Heart.’” said Todd Anderson.

On that day itself, Todd and his brothers decided to surprise their father with the medal. This was a yearlong process. He got in touch with Marine Lt. Col. Aaron Doty and set the ball rolling in the honor of his father, who lives in Woodland Hills.

And two years later, it happened. “We may kill him today with all the excitement,” Todd joked.

Finally, on Feb. 9, Lee Anderson walked into Henri’s restaurant in Canoga Park to have a meal with his fellow marines — something he did as a daily routine. However, that day was stored with something surprising that moistened the eyes of Lee. At the end of his meal, the procession of family and friends started streaming into the dining room.

Lee Anderson was presented with the Purple Heart he earned nearly three-quarters of a century ago.

“Today I have the honor of closing the loop on something that should have happened a long time ago,” Lt. Col. Aaron Doty said before pinning the Purple Heart on Lee’s chest.

“It’s my great honor to finally put this together and hang this medal on this man’s chest who earned it in 1945,” he said. “As a brother, as another Marine, this is an absolute honor and this is what Marines do — love our own ferociously to the death. We take care of each other.”

“It’s so overwhelming,” Lee said. “I can’t believe it.”

Tears were in his eyes as his sons talked about his service. “They know I thank them,” he said. “They’re just the greatest thing there is.”

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