FORT HAMILTON, NY – The Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. James C. McConville, presented the Purple Heart to World War II veteran and life-long New York City resident Mr. Osceola “Ozzie” Fletcher, during a ceremony, June 18, at the Fort Hamilton Community Club here.
Fletcher, a 99-year-old WWII veteran, was approved by the Secretary of the Army to receive the Purple Heart more than 76 years after being wounded during the Battle of Normandy. Due to some of the racial inequalities in the United States at that time, Mr. Fletcher’s story was overlooked for decades, despite rightfully earning the medals in the historic battle.
About 150 personnel gathered to bear witness to this historic occasion. Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis and leadership from New York City Police Department and Fire Department of New York gathered with the Fort Hamilton staff, friends and family of Mr. Fletcher. As the Fletcher family arrived with his family via NYPD escort, they were welcomed with a private meeting with McConville and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea.
James Hendon, Commissioner of NYC Veterans Services, narrated the event, which started with a showing of the film, “Sixth of June”. The 15-minute long film, featuring Fletcher, was one of the catalysts to reexamining the events from 1945, ensuring Fletcher be awarded the Purple Heart.
Henry Roosevelt, “Sixth of June” film director, said, “Ozzie’s story is an integral part in our collective history. We can’t lose sight of that. We can’t allow the stories to fade or individuals to fade into the shadows.”
The film was followed by a video message from U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer as well as remarks by McConville.
“We serve with great Soldiers like Ozzie who set the example for all of us that we aspire to live up to every single today,” McConville said. “Today we have the opportunity to pay Ozzie a long overdue tribute for the sacrifices he made to our nation and free people everywhere.”
Fletcher became injured when the truck he was delivering supplies with was hit be German fire. After the war, Fletcher left the Army and went on to serve his city: he served as a Sergeant in the NYPD, as a high school teacher in NYC Public Schools, and as a Community Relations Specialist in the Brooklyn’s District Attorney’s office
“He has spent his entire life giving to those around him, whether they were brothers in arms, families, or his community,” McConville said. “Today it’s Ozzie’s turn to receive, but we are not really giving him anything today. We’re delivering him something he’s been entitled to for almost 77 years: Purple Heart for wounds received.”
Following the presentation of the Purple Heart, Fletcher and his daughter, Jacqueline Streeter, spoke about their journey to advocate for this medal, their experiences as a family, and what this meant for them personally.
“He was hurt doing the job of an American Soldier,” said Streeter. “I do believe he was looked over because of that reason [race] and that’s what makes this that much better. We’re finally taking another look and considering the experience of all Soldiers.”
The Purple Heart is the oldest U.S. military decoration awarded to members of the armed forces who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy.
Fort Hamilton’s Garrison Commander, Col. Craig Martin, said, Brooklyn and New York City represent the best of America in our diversity and our patriotism. “Ozzie Fletcher and those from the Greatest Generation reflect these key attributes and they have deeply invested these and themselves in the subsequent generations that now live in the New York City you see today. It is both appropriate and our privilege to host Mr. Fletcher on Fort Hamilton… in his hometown… a place where we can equally honor him for receiving this medal as well as for instilling in us what service should mean to every New Yorker,” Martin added.