His military card lists him as a “Black Bayonet Fighter and Trainer” with the M1 rifle.
At 81 years old, retired Sgt. First Class Macron Justice, a DeKalb County veteran of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War, may be the oldest Black Purple Heart recipient alive.
And he is eager to find out. Justice has written letters to several prominent people—challenging them to verify the fact—including first lady Michelle Obama.
“It would mean a lot to me,” Justice said from his south DeKalb home.
Determining the oldest living recipient of the Purple Heart by race would be nearly impossible, a spokesman with the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor said. Records are not kept with that kind of detail.
Recently, a man thought to be the oldest living Black recipient of the award died in Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo., at the age of 84.
Regardless of the distinction, Justice’s contributions that span three decades are noteworthy.
Justice joined the Army near the end of World War II and was sent to Italy to help escort German prisoners of war. After returning home briefly in 1949, Justice was called to serve in the all-Black, 24th Infantry in Japan.
In Frankfurt, Germany, Justice served on the honor guard for then-Commander Creighton Abrams, who later was the general in command of military operations in the Vietnam War.
Justice received his Purple Heart during the Korean War.
On Sept. 9, 1950, as American soldiers were attempting to overtake a hill in Hammond, Korea, they set up directional, anti-personnel mines. But the enemy discovered the mines and figured out a way to reverse them.
A U.S. soldier hit a trip wire attached to the device causing shrapnel to hit Justice, he said. Bullets from a nearby enemy sniper hit Justice twice. As medics strapped him to a stretcher, a mortar landed near him in the mud. Luckily, it was a dud, Justice said.
The medics “gave me a shot of morphine and the next thing I knew I was on a boat to Japan,” Justice said. It was on that ship where a general pinned a Purple Heart to his chest.
In addition to the Purple Heart, Justice was awarded a Bronze Star, three Loops and a chest full of other medals, during his 22-year military tenure.
Justice said the military is still a good organization to join.
“I grew up in the military so I learned everything from it,” Justice said. “The military is what you make of it.
“Go for it. The pay is good,” Justice said. “I know we have three wars going on, but that’s what you mainly train for.”
Justice’s loyalty to the armed forces is no surprise given that several of his brothers also served in the military.
“I remember my father telling my oldest brother, ‘I can’t send you to college right now... so if you went to the army, one day you can go to college,’” Justice said.
That began the Justice family’s military involvement.
Leoper, his 74-year-old brother and only living sibling of seven, was in the Army. His brother Benjamin was in the 9th Cavalry of the Army and James was in the 10th Cavalry. His brother Walter, who served in Army Airborne, was killed in the Vietnam War. Another brother, Norman, served in the Navy.
“We called him turncoat, a Benedict Arnold, because he went to the Navy,” Justice said.
Justice said he has one military secret that he has never told anyone.
“I want to share it with the president before I go to the big Army post in the sky or wherever it is,” Justice said.