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West Jefferson WWII vet receives long awaited medal

Originally published: Jan. 11, 2013
Last modified: Jan. 15, 2013

Jesse Campbell

Edward Ralph Bard rarely talked about his experiences serving in WWII, especially his time on the tiny Japanese island of Okinawa, where Allied Forces had 84,000 casualties. 

So, more than two decades ago, at age 70, when the patriarch finally began to divulge details of his days as a Marine island hopper, his family listened. 

Then, a couple of years ago, Bard started talking about something that shocked his family.

He had received a Purple Heart for combat wounds he sustained while on Okinawa, which was a last stand for Japanese forces in the closing days of the war. 

“I didn't realize all of these years that he had won a Purple Heart,” said Bard's daughter, Evelyn Reeves. “When he told me about this, I said, “'Daddy, at your age, you need to receive this before you pass on.”

Reeves immediately set out to go through the proper channels to make sure her father received the prestigious award that he deserved.

She contacted the local veterans' office to fill out the appropriate paper work, and asked Congresswoman Virginia Foxx for a little help in setting up the proper contacts.

“She really got the ball rolling on this,” said Reeves. 

Friday was the culmination of Reeves' persistency in ensuring Bard received his medal. 

Four Marines from the service branch's inspector instructor division in Greensboro visited Bard at his home, which is located on Lower Nettle Knob Road on the outskirts of West Jefferson, to finally present him with the Purple Heart after sustaining injuries almost 68 years ago. 

Bard appeared visibly moved by the presentation, as his eyes lit up once he saw the medal's unmistakable purple and gold signage. 

At age 91, Bard is sharp, blunt and unabashed about his time in the service. 

“I didn't join them (the Marines Corps), but I didn't quit them either,” said Bard on his service to his country. “They just grab your name and you're in there.”

Bard can still vividly recalled the day the corps hand picked him. 

“I was standing in line at boot camp and someone came along and said, ‘We need a few good men,'” recalled Bard. 

“Since daddy was a Bard, he was at the front of the line,” Reeves added. 

“Bard is only a good name if they take it alphabetically,” Bard said with a laugh.

Following the war, Bard returned to Ashe County before a series of new opportunities shuffled him across the state. 

Before retiring at age 80, Bard had served with G.E. in Winston-Salem, Douglas Aircraft in Charlotte, as well as Sunvik and C and C Tools. 

He has three children: Reeves, Janet Hicks, and Edward Bard Jr. 

Bard also has three grandchildren, two great- grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren. 

As Bard sat in his favorite recliner from the living room of his home Friday morning, he summed up his time in the service and if he would ever entertain the idea or re-enlisting. 

“I'm 91 now,” said Bard. “I hope I'm too old for all of them: the Army, Navy and Marines. I don't believe I could sleep on the ground or in the mud at my age.”

For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.