John O. Bohannon served in the United States Marine Corps from January 1943 to December 1945. During his time in the service he fought in numerous battles across the Pacific. He was wounded June 27, 1944 during the intense fighting on the island of Saipan. For his actions that day he was awarded the Purple Heart and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.
On February 16, 2010, John passed away – but not before giving one of his sons the Purple Heart he earned sixty-five years earlier. A few months later there was a fire at the son’s house the Purple Heart was destroyed. For the next three and a half years the Bohannon family would file paperwork in St. Louis, meet with Congressmen in Memphis, make phone calls to Quantico and other government and military officials trying to replace their father’s Purple Heart.
In November of 2013 a phone call was placed to the Shelby County Public Affairs Officer in Memphis, Tennessee. Steve Shular had recently finished working with MOPH Department of Tennessee Commander Robert Hunt on drafting a proclamation making Shelby County the state of Tennessee’s first Purple Heart County. Mr. Shular with the backing of County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell Jr. worked to connect Commander Hunt and the Bohannon family. Morgan Bohannon became the point of contact for the family. Fairly quickly there were several emails exchanged between Morgan, Steve and Commander Hunt. “Once I had a full understanding of what we were trying to achieve and where we stood I started formulating my plan – I realized very quickly that many of the paths that I had available to me were already dead ends,” said Commander Hunt.
Commander Hunt found an answer in a very unlikely place, Facebook. While looking through posts by friends Commander Hunt saw a posting that was liked by a fellow Purple Heart recipient, member of the MOPH, friend, and founder of Purple Hearts Reunited INC., Army Captain Zachariah Fike. Commander Hunt quickly emailed Captain Fike asking for guidance how he should proceed. Within minutes he had his response Captain Fike was on board to help. Commander Hunt and Captain Fike exchanged information and Captain Fike went to work.
Captain Fike was able to accomplish in three months what other government agencies, officials and politicians couldn’t do in three years. “When I saw that I had a message from Captain Fike I assumed that it was going to be an update and that things were moving along, I was absolutely stunned when I read he had all of Corporal Bohannon’s records.” said Commander Hunt. The story doesn’t end there; in the message Captain Fike detailed his plans to have all the awards Mr. Bohannon earned and asked if Commander Hunt could secure a photo of Mr. Bohannon in uniform. Commander Hunt not wanting to let on to what was going on reached out to Mr. Shular and in short time there was a photo on its way to Captain Fike.
Through generous donations to Purple Hearts Reunited INC. Captain Fike was able to have the photo, a folded flag, Corporal Bohannon’s rank and medals mounted and framed. Once completed it was packed in bubble wrap and shipping peanuts and on its way to Commander Hunt in Memphis.
“Knowing what was on its way and its importance to all involved I couldn’t sleep or focus on anything else until I had it safely in my hands.” Remarked Commander Hunt. “I tore into that box like a kid on Christmas morning, I wanted to make sure it arrived in one piece but mostly just to see it.” Hunt continued. After relaying to Captain Fike that the package arrived and the contents were safe Commander Hunt then contacted Mr. Shular. MorganBohannon, Mr. Shular and Commander Hunt worked out the details of where and when the Purple Heart would be presented to the Bohannon Family. The date was set, March 13, 2014 at 7:00pm the location; Memphis Belle Chapter 484’s monthly meeting.
On the evening of the presentation there were numerous people filled the small meeting room. Corporal Bohannon’s wife Verna accompanied by their daughters Lynn, Melba and son Morgan were in attendance. Unable to attend was their son; John O. Bohannon Jr. Steve Shular was there to represent the Shelby County Mayors office and many of MOPH chapter 484’s officers and members were there.
Unfortunately, Captain Fike was also unable to attend. Department Commander Hunt detailed for the attendees the process that not only that the family went through but that which Captain Fike dealt with. “I wanted to make it clear that my role was very small and it was Captain Fike whose dedication and intensity brought us together that evening.” stated Commander Hunt. Commander Hunt told the room that it was the desire of everyone who worked on this project that the family not only receives Corporal John O. Bohannon’s Purple Heart but all the medals he earned. With that he pulled back a cloth revealing Corporal Bohannon’s framed medals. Commander Hunt assisted by Steve Shular then presented them to Verna Bohannon.
After photos with the family and other attendees, Commander Hunt was ready to close the presentation but there was one more presentation to be made. Steve Shular stepped forward telling the crowd that Captain Fike and Commander Hunt were able to accomplish in five short months what others officials couldn’t do in close to four years. On behalf of Shelby County Mayor, Mark H. Luttrell Jr., Mr. Shular then presented a key to Shelby County to Commander Hunt for Captain Fike. Mr. Shular went on to present a second key to Commander Hunt for his role in helping the Bohannon family and his dedication to the Veterans of Shelby County.