Harrisonburg Vietnam Veteran receives Purple Heart after 53 years of waiting

Virginia Sixth District Congressman Ben Cline awarded U.S. Army Sergeant John Rakes a Purple Heat that was 53 years overdue.
Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 7:43 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Monday was a very special day for one Harrisonburg veteran as he received his Purple Heart after waiting over five decades. Virginia Sixth District Congressman Ben Cline awarded U.S. Army Sergeant John Rakes a Purple Heart that was 53 years overdue.

“It’s a dream come true. I’ve waited 54 years for this and never thought I’d ever see it, thank goodness I am,” said Rakes. “It makes me feel like my two tours were fulfilled. It’s something I waited on for a long time and it’s just fulfilling, it’s just fulfilling.”

In 1970 during the Vietnam War U.S. Army Sergeant John Rakes was serving in the Second Battalion of the 17th Artillery Regiment when he was shot in the left knee and wounded. He was supposed to receive the Purple Heart but the military order never went through.

“The bureaucracy is thick no matter where you’re dealing within the federal government but within the defense department and within the Department of Veterans Affairs sometimes it can be especially thick,” said Rep. Cline.

Once Congressman Cline’s office heard Rake’s story it immediately got to work and was able to obtain his original military records to finally get the medal into his hands.

“That’s what is ultimately the most important part of the job is making sure that when constituents have issues with the federal government whether it’s a Purple Heart or just simply getting a social security check we’re standing ready to help them cut through the red tape,” said Cline.

Cline said that his staff works hard every day to help its constituents and that he was honored to present Rakes with the medal.

“The service of Sergeant Rakes, it was so immense for our country. For him to be able to get his purple heart is justice delivered and I’m just honored to be able to stand here with him today and get to pin it on his chest,” said Cline.

Rakes said that it was surreal to finally get his Purple Heart after so many years and that he is very proud of his service.

“Back then patriotism really meant something. I volunteered for the second tour because I felt like it was my duty. So yeah it was fulfilling, I’d do it again. I did it for all you all and I’d do it again,” he said.