After 73 years, WWII Veteran receives Purple Heart

Flandreau, SD (KSFY) This Saturday a World War II veteran in Flandreau was awarded a Purple Heart, 73 years after the incident that earned him the military honor.

On Sunday, April 1, 1945, Sylcan Vigness was 21 years old, serving as a signalman on the U.S.S. Hindsale. That day, he warned the crew of an incoming Kamikase attack.

“He had to jump from the top of the ship into the water and he always said he never knew if he was going to come back up or not,” Sylvan’s grandson Andrew Vigness said.

Sylvan Vigness was rescued from the water but suffered an injury to his eye; despite the loss of his vision in one eye, he continued to serve on the U.S.S. Hinsdale during World War II.

“That is why it is so important that you and your family are finally receiving your purple heart today,” U.S. Senator Mike Rounds said. “We are all here to honor you and thank you for your service and your sacrifice.”

After 20 years of attempts from several members of Congress, Senator Mike Rounds made that persistence pay off by working directly with the new secretary of the Navy to finally present the 94-year-old veteran with the Purple Heart.

“Everybody that's in his family has just yearned for this and finally it's here. It’s so fun to see and he just deserves it so much!” Andrew Vigness said.

Many veterans and state leaders came out to the Purple Heart ceremony in Flandrea Saturday, to show their respect for his service.

“Recognizing an induvial for a sacrifice he made over 70 years ago, and has lived with since that time, now at last we can give him his due,” Governor Dennis Daugaard said.

“Yes I sure was surprised,” Sylvan Vigness said. “I wonder why in the world they waited so long, but I sure am happy to have it now.”

Governor Daugaard said part of the challenge in securing this Purple Heart was the lack of paperwork documenting Sylvan's injury, but after decades of persistence, it finally come through.