Garlin Murl Conner, a World War II Army officer and a Clinton County native, is one step closer to posthumously receiving the Medal of Honor.
The Army Board for Correction of Military Records, a three-member panel, went against the advice of its staff and voted unanimously in late October that the evidence "was sufficient to warrant a recommendation" that Conner receive the Medal of Honor for the actions he took to save the lives of fellow soldiers.
Dennis Shepherd, an attorney for the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, learned Monday about the panel's recommendation. Shepherd said it's rare for the panel to go against the advice of its staff, which had said there was "insufficient evidentiary basis" for granting the medal.
"I've reviewed dozens and dozens of decisions, and I've never seen it," Shepherd said. "You just don't see this."
Shepherd, a retired Air Force colonel, has argued on behalf of the Conner family in various proceedings, including an oral argument before the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
The Conner family now awaits a decision from the Senior Army Decorations Board. A letter to Conner's widow, Lyda Pauline Conner, said "it may be several months" before that board makes a recommendation.
Nevertheless, Shepherd said, "I would say that our chances are pretty good."
He said he hadn't heard reaction from the Conner family because he just received the decision in the mail Monday.
Conner, a first lieutenant, earned four Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, seven Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during combat in World War II.
But he never received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military distinction, given by Congress for risk of life in combat beyond the call of duty.
The Army first rejected Conner's application in 1997 and again in 2000. Conner died in 1998 at age 79.
Since then, Shepherd was able to get three eyewitness statements presented into evidence to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records.
One statement came from a sergeant who said Conner had directed artillery fire to fall onto his own position, killing 50 German soldiers and wounding 100.