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Nearly 56 years later, town honors war hero

IDABEL, Okla. (AP) -- McCurtain County's World War II Memorial should have included the name of Army Pfc. Wallie Edward "Ed" Striplin long ago. But it took nearly 56 years for the Army to figure out that Striplin had died during the war.

"For some reason, Mr. Striplin was never recognized as deceased by the military," Idabel Mayor James Mills said Monday.

Striplin's family knew he perished in June 1944 when a German shell hit his landing craft, sinking it in the English Channel near Utah Beach. But Army records listed the 21-year-old soldier as missing in action.

Striplin might never have received his due -- his military grave marker, his Purple Heart, his World War II Victory Medal, his Good Conduct Medal and his European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon -- if not for one woman's interest in genealogy.

Karen Striplin and her husband, Therman, are from South Dakota but travel the country in their recreational vehicle. Last summer, they stopped in Idabel to search the Striplin family roots.

"I had been married to Therman for 35 years but knew very little about his family," Karen Striplin said.

They learned that four young men from Therman Striplin's family served in World War II, but only one survived.

Outside the courthouse, they scanned the 131 names on the McCurtain County World War II Memorial -- but didn't find Wallie Edward Striplin.

Karen Striplin wanted to know why.

That's where Frank Horner with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4777 in Idabel came in. Horner contacted the Army's Board for Correction of Military Records and succeeded in getting Ed Striplin's records corrected.

On Monday, Therman and Karen Striplin were among about 50 family, friends and war veterans who gathered on the courthouse steps. The names of Wallie Striplin and his nephew, Staff Sgt. James Burns, were freshly engraved in marble on the McCurtain County memorial.

Burns had received a military burial and the honors due him, but had been mistakenly left off the county memorial.

"It's a real satisfying feeling that finally he has been honored," Karen Striplin said.
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