Emerson Ray Dixon was known as a man of strong Christian faith and patriotic values.
So it seems only fitting that Dixon’s brave sacrifices for his country were ultimately recognized in a house of worship.
Dixon, Korean War veteran, posthumously received his Purple Heart during a special ceremony Sunday at First Baptist Church in Garner.
The longtime member of First Baptist was seriously wounded in 1951 when shrapnel struck his neck, permanently damaging his vocal chords.
Though his injury caused Dixon to speak in hushed tones, friends and family remember the deeds of his good life were always loud and clear.
“He spoke more with his deeds than his words,” said Col. Richard Kaiser of the XVIII Airborne Corps based in Ft. Bragg.
It was Kaiser who presented the long-awaited Purple Heart to Dixon’s wife, Janet, and daughter, Cynthia Gail, in front of the First Baptist congregation.
Paperwork was filed for the Purple Heart shortly after Dixon sustained the injury, but it was lost in the 1973 National Archives and Records Administration fire in St. Louis.
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Ray Dunlap, a member of First Baptist Church of Garner, remembers Dixon well. The two were ushers together at church for the last 25 years until Dixon’s death in February.
“Ray was just a wonderful person,” Dunlap said. “Ray and I talked a lot, but he never talked about his military service.”
Even the Dixon family knows just the basics of Ray’s two years of service before he was honorably discharged in 1952.
Dunlap visited Janet and Cynthia Gail shortly after Dixon passed away and learned about the Purple Heart that was never received. He asked the family for documentation and worked with the Korean War Project and Sen. Richard Burr’s office in the last three months to obtain proper recognition.
“We’re standing here 61 years later, correcting a wrong,” Dunlap told the First Baptist congregation.
However, Dunlap said he is proud that the military came through and awarded the medal.
“It just gives me a sense of pride that a wrong has been righted,” Dunlap said.
Closing the ceremony, Kaiser said there’s plenty that Garner citizens can do to uphold the same constitutional freedoms that Dixon protected.
“Don’t take these freedoms for granted,” Kaiser said. “Do your part to protect these freedoms by being a good citizen.”
He also asked the congregation to thank military service members and pray for those put in harm’s way to protect the United States.
The Purple Heart, originally known as the Badge of Military Merit, was established by President George Washington and is awarded to military members who have been wounded or killed while serving.
Apex Herald Editor Shawn Daley contributed to this story.
Contact Kelly Griffith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-552-5675.