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94-year-old Iowa World War II combat medic finally gets his Purple Heart and a day in his honor

John Gualtier Day declared June 20 in Vinton

U.S. Army veteran John Gualtier of Vinton, Iowa, speaks to North Linn boy's basketball head coach Mike Hilmer after bein
U.S. Army veteran John Gualtier of Vinton, Iowa, speaks to North Linn boy’s basketball head coach Mike Hilmer after being awarded the Purple Heart in a ceremony at the Vinton Skate & Activity Center in Vinton, Iowa, on Saturday, June 20, 2020. Hilmer would have Gualtier, and other veterans, come to the Troy Mills, Iowa, school as speak about their experiences during the war. Gualtier, a World War II combat medic as well as during the Korean War, was wounded by shrapnel in the spring of 1945. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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VINTON — Surrounded by 100 or so of his friends and family, John Gualtier, a World War II combat medic, was honored in Vinton on Saturday, June 20 — a day that from now on will be known as John Gualtier Day.

Vinton Mayor Bud Maynar signed a proclamation on June 11 declaring the date official.

Jeanette Henry, the Veterans of Foreign Wars auxiliary president for Vinton, had been planning the ceremony for Gualtier since April, but due to the coronavirus and social-distancing guidelines, the event was postponed to June 20.

“He’s never worried about himself,” Henry said. “He went above and beyond to help other veterans.”

U.S. Army Major General Robert Sentman presented Gualtier with the Purple Heart Medal.

The combat decoration is awarded to members of the armed forces who are wounded during wartime or posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action.

Gualtier’s initial application for the Purple Heart was turned down due to the lack of reporting of his treatments. Members of the VFW and the American Legion in Vinton pushed for Gualtier to be recognized.

Many of Gualtier’s friends and family spoke at the Vinton Skate and Activity Center event about memories of fishing and playing cards, but also his representation of being a good man.

Gualtier served in the U.S. Army during World War II and the Vietnam conflict.

Deb Bowen, a native of the Quad Cities and friend of Gualtier’s, said Gualtier spoke to three Iowa schools in one day telling his story as veteran.

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At one of the schools, Bowen said Gualtier spoke of when he was experiencing problems with his mental health while serving, and had thoughts of attempting suicide. That year, the school had a student who took his own life, and Bowen said every child in the room was touched by what Gualtier had to say on overcoming those obstacles.

“It’s every single child you have ever spoken to, John,” Bowen said. “You are loved, and you have made a difference.”

Thanking his wife and the many friends who came to support him, Gualtier, 94, said he was overwhelmed by the support around him on Saturday.

“It is just unbelievable,” Gualtier said. “I wouldn’t be up here if it weren’t for them.”

Comments: (319) 398-8372; alexandra.skores@thegazette.com

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