MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- With peace talks beginning after the Revolutionary War, the brave American rebels who defeated the British were not recognized for their sacrifices.
George Washington ordered the Badge of Military Merit, the original Purple Heart Medal, Aug. 7, 1782.
The tradition of honoring those who were wounded in the line of duty still remains strong as more than 100 Marines, sailors along with their friends and families attended the Purple Heart Memorial unveiling at the Wounded Warrior Battalion-East barracks aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Oct. 11.
“This will be here as a constant reminder to our Marines who wear the Purple Heart,” said Lt. Col. Leland W. Suttee, Battalion-East commanding officer. “I don’t wear a Purple Heart, so I’ll never understand what the Marines who wear that sacred Medal have gone through. It is a tremendous sacrifice they have given for our country.”
Beirut Memorial Chapter 642 Military Order of the Purple Heart donated the memorial to the battalion.
“This means a great deal to me and all those in my chapter,” said Grant Beck, Chapter 642 commander. “We have received the Purple Heart and understand the heartache the young men and women who wear the medal go through.”
Retired Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell, a Purple Heart recipient and a leading force in the formation of the Wounded Warrior Regiment, was the guest speaker for the ceremony.
In 2004, Maxwell sustained a traumatic brain injury during a mortar attack in Iraq. He awoke a month later in Bethesda Naval Medical Center.
Maxwell saw how Marines were able to lean on each other through the rehabilitation process in the hospital.
“Being together and being a team makes them much stronger,” Maxwell said. “My hope today is the Marines know their life isn’t over, and they can improve, make changes and keep moving forward.”
Through Maxwell’s leadership, Maxwell Hall was built as the first East Coast barracks for wounded Marines which was the forerunner to the Wounded Warrior Regiment.
Base officials, including Brig. Gen. Robert F. Castellvi, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune commanding general, attended the ceremony.
The memorial reads “My stone is red for the blood they shed. The medal I bear is my country’s way to show they care. If I could be seen by all mankind maybe peace will come in my lifetime.”
The Purple Heart Medal is the oldest medal still awarded in the U.S. military.
The medal is unique because service members are not recommended for it, but are entitled to receive the award if they have met the criteria.
For more information about Wounded Warrior Battalion-East, visit www.woundedwarriorregiment.org/index.cfm/wwbneast.
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