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January 27, 2018 06:16 PM

WWII Veteran's 20-Year Battle To Get Purple Heart Finally Results In Honor

Flandreau, SD

A Purple Heart is awarded to members of the U.S. military wounded by the enemy.

But our KELOLAND News investigations have been showing you cases where veterans did not receive the honor they were entitled do.

First we looked into Korean War Veteran Gene Coyle's case, who even had war-time shrapnel removed from his back. 

After our investigation, Coyle was finally presented with the Purple Heart, 66 years after being wounded at least three times in battle.

Now another KELOAND Veteran is getting the honor he's due. 

Sylvan Vigness, a long-time Flandreau teacher and superintendent of schools lost sight in his left eye after his ship, the U.S.S. Hinsdale was attacked by a Kamikaze during battle 73 years ago.

Part of the holdup in him getting the Purple Heart was due to poor record keeping aboard the ship and a mix-up about where his ship was attacked.

"He was talking about the fact that he was really in two different locations that were battles.  He was on Iwo Jima. That ship was involved in battles off of Iwo Jima. But the Kamikaze attack occurred off of Okinawa," Sen. Mike Rounds R-SD said.

Sen. Rounds tells KELOLAND News he personally met with the Secretary of the Navy who is under directive from the White House to expedite medals for veterans who deserve them. 

"He wasn't one to push this at all, but he can't help but to be happy." said Sylvan's wife, Iona Vigness.

Angela Kennecke: "And it's about time?"
Iona Vigness: Well that's okay. Maybe it was more special--who knows?

Vigness, who's suffered some health setbacks in recent years, turned 94 this month.  He was surrounded by his family and wife of nearly 70 years as he received the Purple Heart. 

Vigness son Dan started the effort to get his Purple Heart 20 years ago, but died of cancer before he could see it happen.

Ironically the five-year anniversary of Dan's death is January 28.  

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