Gordon: Purple Hearts awarded to Joe Ford, Don Hemphill; You are our heroes

Jan. 20, 2013 @ 11:10 AM

We've always been interested in talking about our heroes who served in branches of the military service — those who went beyond the call of duty to help others and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

Two such heroes, veterans Joe Ford and Don Hemphill, have been honored this weekend.

On Saturday a contingent of Rutherford County supporters traveled to Oteen Hospital in Asheville to witness a Purple Heart medal and a Prisoner of War medal to Cpl. Joseph E. Ford. 

A lot of people have been working for months to make sure the former Army Corporal received his Purple Heart and also a Prisoner of War medal. He served in the Korean War.

Ford is a patient at Oteen, but his wife Sally members of First Baptist Church and other supporters witnessed the ceremony. So many local people, including Mike Nanney and Rolling Thunder, attended.

I wasn't around with Ford came home from after being a Prisoner of War, but I had an opportunity o interview him several years ago at his home in Rutherfordton. I reminded him of that Saturday at Oteen. He smiled big and gave me a thumbs up.

Some people told me Ford weighed less than 80 pounds after two years as a prisoner of war after two years as a POW. I was also told he couldn't stand the thoughts of anyone ever being hungry. 

During the opening prayer Saturday, Ford's pastor, the Rev. Tim Marsh, quoted the scripture that no greater love than a person to lay down his life for a friend.

Ford was that kind of man. He lay down his life for his fellow soldiers.

Saturday he received the recognition for those acts of sacrifice and bravery. 

Today at 2 p.m. Don Hemphill of Union Mills, will receive his Purple Heart medal during a ceremony at Gilkey Community Center, former Gilkey School. Hemphill's medal has been missing 70 years. He'll also receive a Bronze Star during the ceremony.

Some members of the Order of Purple Heart will attend as well as Army veteran Robert Blum, responsible for getting the medal to Hemphill.

Blum bought the medal in an antique store in 2000 at Columbia, S.C. and vowed to get the medal to its rightful owner some day. The day is today.

According to Hemphill's daughter, Donna Robbins, Blum's friend, Marine veteran Paul Marquis, knew about Capt. Zachariah Fike of Burlington, Vt., who is dedicated to returning Purple Heart medals to owners. The two men connected on Facebook and the rest is history.

Fike will conduct this afternoon's ceremony.

Saturday and today are those special events that do not happen every day.

It'll do your heart good to take the time at 2 p.m. today to go to Gilkey and honor Hemphill who gave so much and has taken so little.

If you missed Ford's ceremony, you can send him a note to: Charles George Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 1100 Tunnel Road, Asheville, NC 28805. This will may him smile and you'll be blessed, too.

These men are my heroes. 

Thank you for all the sacrifices you made for me.

I won't forget.