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John L. Opgrand receives Purple Heart Award 79 years after his death

“John is one of the many American heroes who were never found or brought home,”
Published: Jul. 31, 2021 at 8:51 PM CDT
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HAWLEY, M.N. (Valley News Live) - A Minnesota family received the Purple Heart Award in honor of John L. Opgrand. He was a Private First-Class in the U.S. Army Airforces during World War II.

In 2019 he received the Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII, Prisoner of War Medial and the American Defense Service Medal. On July 31st he received the Purple Heart Award, a military decoration for those wounded or killed while serving.

Opgrand enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1939. He was sent and later captured in the Philippines while fighting in the Battle of Bataan. He became a prisoner or war, missing in action. He was in the Bataan Death March, tortured and pronounced dead in June 1942.

“The fall of Bataan was a very dark time for the United States and the Army specifically,” Commander of the Fargo Memorial Honor Guard Jason Hicks, “It means a lot to all of us to be here today.”

Opgrand’s family has fought for 79 years for recognition of his service and sacrifice.

“John is one of the many American heroes who were never found or brought home,” said his great niece Lori Pladson.

Opgrand is 1 of 16 children to Anton and Gida Opgrand of Ulen, Minnesota. A tight knit family whose kids and grandkids still gather once a year to connect and remember the many service members in their family, including Opgrand.

“Johnnie we hope you know we love you and you can see the honors you have gotten,” said his niece Deanne Halvorson, “You may have left us long ago, but you will never be forgotten.”

His family said they are expecting 3 more awards in Opgrand’s honor.

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