Carson City man receives Purple Heart

Al Porter greets U.S. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., before receiving his Purple Heart at the Carson Plaza Retirement Home Saturday. Porter served in the U.S. Army during World War II and fought during the Battle of the Bulge.    BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal

Al Porter greets U.S. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., before receiving his Purple Heart at the Carson Plaza Retirement Home Saturday. Porter served in the U.S. Army during World War II and fought during the Battle of the Bulge. BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal

Sometimes, among the throng of well-wishers, the flash of digital cameras and the perma-grin of friends and relatives, a moment alone brings the truth.

Longtime Carson resident Al Porter's moment came Saturday.

Clad in a borrowed Army uniform, Porter celebrated his 90th birthday with the 80 residents of the Carson Plaza Retirement Home, more than two dozen American Legion Post and local VFW members, his great-grandchildren, friends and neighbors - and Congressman Dean Heller.

Not bad for "just a regular guy," Porter said.

That "regular guy" was recently awarded the Purple Heart for a wound he sustained in December 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge on the Germany/Belgium border.

During the legendary stand-down, some 19,000 Americans were killed and 81,000 wounded.

Porter, a machine gunner with the 106th Infantry, 424th regiment, sustained a foot wound in the battle.

He was discharged while a corporal in the U.S. Army on June 30, 1945.

For more than half a century until 1997, Porter said he submitted requests to the Department of Defense for the Purple Heart.

And he got no response, until just a few months ago, long-time neighbor and friend Riley Evans said.

"He just kind of told me he got this piece of paper saying he'd gotten (the Purple Heart)," Evans said. "Nothing much else after that - not a big deal."

Evans told another neighbor, Art Baer, about the award. Baer, a member of the American Legion Post 56, spread the word.

"Typical Army, taking 60 years to get something right," Baer joked Saturday. "And even then, they were going to send (Porter) his medal in the mail.

"Can you believe that?"

Local American Legion 56 post commander Marco Manor couldn't, and he helped organize his post as well as members of local VFWs to pay tribute to Porter for the honor.

"It's the right thing to do, to present this the right way," he said.

Shawn Murphy, a veteran of the first Gulf War, brought his family to see Porter's award pinned to his chest by Congressman Heller.

"I'm really nervous," said daughter Tyler Murphy, 9, a 4th-grader at Minden Elementary, prior to Porter's arrival in the retirement home's dining area. "I want to see how he'll react. I wonder how it felt for him - to wait so long. ..."

Evans said the surprise ceremony would be "just great" for Porter.

"He'll be thrilled, and excited - if the surprise doesn't kill him," Evans joked as Porter was walking into the dining area to a barrage of applause.

Among the well-wishers was grandson Clint Briska, who traveled with his three children, Tyler, 14, Trevor, 7, and Courtney, 11 - from Riverside, Calif. for the occasion.

"He's always been a great grandfather," Briska said. "He shared his war stories. It's a real honor to see him today."

Trevor said he hadn't heard many stories about the war from his great-grandfather and shrugged when asked if he knew much about World War II.

"I'm just proud of him," he said.

Before sitting down to cut his birthday cake and blow out nine candles - one for each decade, Porter paused and looked at his medal.

With no pictures being taken, no hands to shake and no pats on the back to shoulder - he had one moment - 63 years in the making.

"It's all right here," he said, patting his breast where his medal was now pinned. "This is big doings here - this is everything."

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at apridgen@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.

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