South Buffalo Army veteran recognized for combat injuries suffered 63 years ago
Congressman Brian Higgins presented Korean War veteran Eugene "Bob" Pernatt with a Purple Heart and additional military medals he earned 63 years ago during his service in the United States Army.
"Private Pernatt and so many others bear lasting scars, physical and otherwise, after returning home from battle," Higgins said. "We can't begin to express the extent of sincere gratitude felt as a nation for his sacrifices, and we are honored to present these medals to Mr. Pernatt in recognition of his contributions to our county and as a lasting tribute for his service. "
Pernatt and was born, raised and still lives in South Buffalo. He came from a patriotic family with an uncle, Private Vincent McCormick, serving in the U.S. Army during World War II's Battle of the Bulge; a brother, James, who served in the U.S. Navy; and another brother, George, who served 16 months with the U.S. Army in Germany.
Bob followed in his uncle's footsteps by enlisting in the U.S. Army Oct. 7, 1949, to serve his country. Shortly afterward, on June 24, 1950, North Korean troops invaded South Korea, and President Truman ordered U.S. troops assist South Korea.
On April 19, 1951, Private Pernatt took on enemy fire and suffered gunshot wounds in both legs. He was flown to Japan where he wrote a letter to his parents from his hospital bed letting them know that he was "slightly wounded" and assuring his parents they shouldn't worry. He was later sent to Midway Island, then to Honolulu, before a transfer to Walter Reed Hospital where he stayed in recovery and rehab for seven months.
Private Pernatt served in the 3rd Infantry Division, which has one of the most successful combat records and one of the most decorated infantry divisions in the Army. Unfortunately, the high success of the 3rd Infantry Division came at a very high cost. It has suffered more than 50,000 wartime casualties. The division was one of the first engaged in ground combat during WWII and most recently was one of the first divisions in the Army to serve two tours of Iraq.
Known for their courage, more than 2,000 members of the unit were killed in action during the Korean War, and nearly 8,000 were wounded - including Pernatt, who suffered permanent physical damage as a result of his combat wounds.
In 1954, Private Pernatt was discharged and able to return home to South Buffalo where he worked at National Fuel Gas. He and his wife, May, raised two children: Wesley and Robert. His late son, Robert, was stationed in Germany and was an airborne paratrooper and captain in the U.S. Army.
Like many other veterans, Bob never really talked about the war and was reluctant to seek recognition, but his brother, George, sought to get his brother the recognition he deserved. George contacted Higgins' office and submitted the necessary documents. The Army verified Bob was eligible to receive the Purple Heart.
The Purple Heart is awarded to soldiers who have been injured or killed due to hostile actions while serving with the U.S. Armed Services. The original Purple Heart, designated as the Badge of Military Merit, was established by General George Washington in 1782.
In addition to the Purple Heart, Higgins presented Pernatt with the National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal with two bronze service stars, United Nations Service Medal, and the Marksman Badge with Carbine Bar and Rifle Bar. In addition, he received the Korean War Service Medal, an award of the Republic of Korea.