MUNCIE, Ind. — Gene Moody presumably earned the lasting gratitude of his nation 79 years ago when as a teen from Tennessee he was wounded while serving in a U.S. Army’s infantry division closing in on German troops.

World War II was in its final weeks, at least in Europe, when Moody — then 18 — was struck by German shrapnel on April 9, 1945.

Nearly eight decades later, that shrapnel remains in one of the 98-year-old Moody’s knees, resulting in arthritis.

Moody — who received the Purple Heart medal — was discharged from the Army a year later, in May 1946, and eventually made his way from Tennessee to Muncie, where he took a job at the Warner Gear plant.

He soon met Marie, who became his wife and the mother of his three children. The couple recently celebrated their 75th anniversary.

In recent months, Gene and Marie Moody, both now in their 90s, made the move from their home in the Daleville area to an assisted living facility in Muncie.

After an active life that has spanned nearly a century, Gene is experiencing some of the health ailments associated with advanced age.

The cost of staying at the assisting living facility is considerable, and while they have lived a good life provided by their own hard work, the Moodys are not wealthy.

Their daughter, Vickie Rees, described her parents as “very proud.”

Government offers health care to WWII veterans

As Gene Moody’s health began to deteriorate, family members hoped his military service in World War II might help finance his resulting care needs.

Rees took heart when she learned of legislation passed in 2022 designed to offer no-cost health care to the nation’s remaining World War II veterans.

“These members of the Greatest Generation answered the call to to serve when our nation — and the world — needed them most,” Shereef Elnahal, Veterans Administration Under Secretary for Health, said in February. “Now, it’s our job to serve them in every way that we can.”

However, the Moody family’s first bid to obtain “aid and assistance” for Gene was turned down by the federal government.

Apparently, 98-year-old Gene Moody “wasn’t disabled enough,” Rees said.

After rejection, family will ask again

The Moody family will continue its efforts to win the financial assistance they believe Gene’s military service — and his present condition — warrant.

A second application will almost certainly be more focused on Gene’s war injuries and its aftermath.

Rees called the support her family’s efforts have received from the Veterans Service Office in the Delaware County Building “amazing.”

Elected officials — including U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and Cory Criswell, a state representative from Middletown — have also expressed their support.

One official, Rees said, asked, “How in the world did a World War II veteran (and) Purple Heart winner get denied?”

Working hard, enjoying family life

Gene Moody spent 30 years at Warner Gear before retiring. He then went to trade school to learn how to reupholster furniture, and used that skill to supplement his income for 25 more years.

Rees said her father has been “very social.” For years, he and Marie were well known as “walkers” at Muncie Mall.

They also were participants in a square dancing club and enjoyed playing cards with friends.

His daughter said Gene had been an “amazing, present dad,” recalling the many camping trips their family enjoyed when she and her brothers were young. He was also routinely involved in his children’s school activities.

“Dad was a jokester,” she said. “He was always keeping people laughing.”

He has never discussed his war history with his children. All indications are that it involved fierce fighting and casualties.

“My dad has never told the story to anyone except his grandsons,” Rees said. They conducted a videotaped interview with their grandfather about his experiences in the war with the understanding it would not be shown to others during his lifetime.

As for life in the assisted care facility, Rees said it’s a difficult experience for a couple that led such an active life.

“They’re making the best of it,” she said.