Crestview man earns Purple Heart, family learns after his death

purple heart gene payne

1st Sgt. Gene Payne retired from the Army in 1984. While a staff sergeant serving in Vietnam, Gene Payne was wounded but never received a Purple Heart.

Special to the News Bulletin
Published: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 11:36 AM.

CRESTVIEW — After retired U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Gene Payne died, his family discovered that he had finally been awarded a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during service in Vietnam.

Sgt. Payne died April 30 at age 69, having been married for 47 years to Rachel Payne.

While a sergeant in Vietnam, Payne was hit by a hand grenade, his brother-in-law, Tony Bigbie of Columbus, Ga., said. However, Payne never received the Purple Heart to recognize his injuries.

While his family arranged services with Whitehurst-Powell Funeral Home, director Chuck Jordan researched Payne's military history and discovered that after more than 45 years, he had at last been recognized for his injuries.

"I didn't find out until we were at the funeral home," Payne's daughter, Janice Payne Roberts, of Crestview said. "It said, 'Purple Heart recipient.' He should have received it but it had never been issued."

"That's the way things work in the military," Bigbie said.

Payne retired from the Army in 1984 and became a property manager. He retired and moved from Pensacola to Crestview.

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