September 05, 2017

Lincoln County native gets Purple Heart for Pearl Harbor wounds | Charleston Gazette Mail

A Lincoln County native who was wounded in the attack on Pearl Harbor finally has received his Purple Heart medal.

Wetzel “Sunrise” Sanders, 94, of Midkiff, authorized U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s office to help him get the long-overdue medal late last year. Sanders received shrapnel in his right knee while helping to repel the Japanese attack on the Pearl Harbor base in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, which catapulted the United States into World War II.

Sanders remains a fixture at the annual Pearl Harbor Day ceremonies in Charleston. In 2013, he told a reporter that he was going to sleep in his barracks when the attack came.

After he grabbed his gun, he and other soldiers piled into trucks and headed to the base.

“When I got into Pearl Harbor I had seven holes shot into my truck,” he said.

After about 20 minutes of trying to shoot down Japanese planes, Sanders said, he and his comrades ran out of ammunition. He went along with a few other soldiers to find more.

“After, we went down to the water and helped get a lot of them out,” Sanders said. “They had all the dead stacked in the hospital yard. It was a sight I’ll never forget.”

The attack claimed the lives of 2,403 Americans and 19 vessels were either sunk or badly damaged in the attack.

Manchin’s office announced in a news release Tuesday that Sanders had secured the award.

“It is because of brave men and woman like Wetzel that we remain a strong, safe and secure nation,” Manchin said.