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.
He and Rachel Payne had two children, Roberts and her brother, Gene R. Payne, who lives in Dadeville, Ala., and four grandchildren, Kimberly, 14, Gabriel, 12, Matthew, 8, and Samantha, 4.
Payne, who was born on the Fourth of July, 1943, was interred Thursday at Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola.
"He was probably drill sergeant for some of the guys he's with now," Roberts said.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.