Local World War II veteran, former POW finally receives Purple Heart

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY — A local World War II veteran and former prisoner of war is finally receiving the recognition he deserves.

Dudley Riley, 95, enlisted in the Army when he was 18. He was sent off to war, then he was held captive by German forces for two and a half years. As a POW, Riley was forced to walk in the snow for six days, eventually getting frostbite on his feet.

“I feel that I am a survivor,” says Riley.

Now, more than 70 years later, Riley is being recognized for the sacrifice he gave and the wounds he received.

On Wednesday, Riley was told he was going to speak at a nearby chamber of commerce meeting. His family says he got dressed up and had a speech prepared, only to find out there was crowd waiting for him down the hall at the Joseph “Eddie” Ballard Western Kentucky Veterans Center, where he now lives.

“I had no idea,” says Riley. “I’ve waited a long time for it. This Purple Heart means more to me than anything else.”

Surrounded by friends and family, Riley received the Purple Heart, pinned by Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner, Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Adams III.

“Dad was always for us, so we want to support him and all the people here,” says Riley’s daughter, Pam Henderson. “I think he has quite a reputation here.”

“Now it seems very timely, you know, that we are able to enjoy this time with dad and just to see the look on dad’s face,” says Riley’s other daughter, Phyllis Caldwell.

Riley is getting ready to celebrate his 96th birthday on Aug. 11.

With so many stories to tell, Riley published a book, “Farm Boy, Soldier, Daddy – The Journey That Led Him to Where He Is Today.” In it, he shares what it was like to be a prisoner of war.