Harvey Drahos was wounded in action when he was 22 years old, in the World War II Battle of Okinawa. He received his Purple Heart this year, at age 100. The ceremony was held Sept. 30 at the Olympic Flight Museum in Olympia, Washington.
Drahos’s service in the Army as an expert rifleman assigned to the 96th Infantry Division is where he earned the Purple Heart Medal, among many others, after receiving shrapnel wounds, a traumatic brain injury, hearing loss, and other injuries during the Battle of Okinawa on April 6, 1945.
“At that time I had a mother and two younger brothers, and I was the breadwinner of the family,” Drahos said. “Unfortunately, the war changed everything. And so I went into the Army in 1943 and was sent to Camp Roberts, California, which is the infantry training center, and spent 18 weeks training there.”
The Army honorably discharged Drahos on February 7, 1946. Still, his paperwork became littered with clerical errors, which included incorrectly listing his unit and the field hospital where he received treatment.
“When I received my discharge papers, not only did it say I was a mechanic during the war, but it also said I was in the 98th Regiment,” Drahos said. ‘Well, unfortunately, the 98th regiment was part of the 10th Mountain Division, which was in Italy.”
Back in the 1940s, Soldiers needed their original discharge papers to correct clerical issues. In addition to the clerical issues, Drahos had to deal with lost mail for his records and medal.
Eventually, Drahos received his medals, but not the Purple Heart, and his discharge forms still needed to be amended. Drahos made several attempts to fix his records to reflect his actual unit and field hospital in 1962, 1967, 1968, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2022, and again in 2023.
Drahos with his Purple Heart
Misfortune struck Drahos again in July 1973 when the St. Louis, Missouri, fire destroyed the repository and his permanent records. The VA denied his benefits and the Purple Heart Medal due to losing his records. But this did not make Drahos give up.
Washington’s U.S. senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and three Washington U.S. representatives intervened on Drahos’s behalf; the Army Review Board denied all requests. Without original documentation, they could not approve the request. But still, Drahos did not give up hope.
The YouTube channel discovered Drahos’s story “Remember WWII with Rishi Sharma.” Sharma’s interview with Drahos went viral. Other news agencies picked up the story, and Sharma made a public plea on his YouTube channel to his viewers to put enough pressure on the Army Review Board to get Drahos his medal.
The public pressure worked.
After one final submission, on August 29, 2023, Drahos heard the news that his Purple Heart Medal was finally approved.
One month later, on September 30, 2023, Drahos was pinned his Purple Heart Medal by America’s First Corps command team, Lt. Gen. Xavier Brunson and Command Sgt. Maj. Shawn Carns, closing this chapter in his life.
“The thing that I want us all to take away from Harvey’s bio is the pledge that he made in dire straits,” Brunson said. “That he would live his life in such a way that people would be better just by knowing him. So, I commit myself today to live a life like yours. That I might be better for myself, my family, my community, the Army, and most assuredly, my nation.”
Drahos’s life of selfless service did not end after World War II. When in the field hospital in Okinawa, Drahos pledged that if he survived his wounds, he would dedicate the rest of his life to serving others in his communities.
And that’s precisely what he did.
“Service is a dedication that you have an opportunity to take to help the community and your fellow man in whatever that service is,” Drahos said. “My life has been full of many opportunities and challenges, but you must keep the faith. Because if you give up, then nothing will happen in a positive way.”
Upon returning from the Pacific, Drahos used the G-I Bill to attend college, where he earned a chiropractic degree and set up a practice in Barstow, California. He then attended the University of Southern California Graduate School and earned a disaster administrator certificate.
He later flew search and rescue missions for the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary.
“It’s not about me, it’s about them,” Drahos said. “It’s about humanity and our community and that’s very important to me.”
Today, Drahos continues to rides horses, enjoys meals with friends, and always advocates for his fellow veterans.
“My advice to people is don’t give up faith,” Drahos said. “Continue on the course, keep a positive attitude, and I am so proud to have served my country.”
–Sgt. Keaton Habeck