Vietnam vet strives to take first steps in years during Fayetteville Purple Heart dinner

Cumberland County News

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Barry Pearce’s first Purple Heart came after his plane was shot down in Vietnam in 1970.

He went back to war the following year.

“Needed people to go back to Vietnam, so I recuperated and went back,” Pearce said.

Unbelievably, his plane was shot down again.

“Just lucky, good airplane,” Pearce said about surviving.

Pearce was the only survivor in the second crash in which 14 of his fellow airmen died.

“The Purple Hearts belong to them,” says Pearce, a double Purple Heart recipient.

Back then, Barry didn’t get a welcome home.

“I was spit on at the San Fransico airport,” Pearce said. “It was very degrading.”

Times have changed.

Barry is now being honored at the Sandhills Purple Heart dinner next week.

“For the Vietnam vets that have never been recognized, sometimes that’s the first time they’re ever recognized,” Pearce said.

His leg was amputated in May, and he hasn’t walked since he had a stroke 12 years ago, but with a new prosthetic leg he’s working to change that just in time for the dinner.

“I’m going to be able to walk for the first time in 12 years.”

Troy Decker with Sandhills Orthotics and Prosthetics in Pinehurst devotes his life to helping veterans like Pearce walk again.

“He really wanted to be able to walk down the aisle at that banquet,” Decker said. “I said ‘I think we can make that happen’.”

Decker and his team created a custom Purple Heart design for Barry’s prosthetic.

“I’m thrilled and everybody that sees it is,” Pearce said.

“It’s a very rewarding feeling to help somebody not only walk again but give them something they’re proud to show off,” Decker said.

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