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Untold Stories: National Purple Heart Day and Wounded US Heroes
“When you lose a battle buddy you try to pick up more of your battle buddies and try to move on.” —Vietnam Veteran and Purple Heart Recipient John Footman
There are so many inspiring, beautiful stories about the great heroes of American history which are scarcely ever told. One happens on them accidentally—buried in a thick, out-of-print biography, in small print on a museum sign, casually and fleetingly mentioned in an obscure educational video. America cannot return to greatness in the future if we do not truly understand the greatness of our past. That is why I am writing an article series to tell a few of these little-known but moving or illustrative “untold stories” of American greatness. Previous articles in this series have included the slave John Washington’s break for freedom with the help of the Union Army; how George Washington saved a slave family from being divided; heroes of the Vietnam War; and trailblazing Marines throughout US history.
Since today is National Purple Heart Day, commemorating all those who have earned one of the oldest American military honors, I wanted to share a few stories of Purple Heart recipients (the brief bios below were originally written for and published on PJ Media). But first, From We Are the Mighty:
On August 7th, we celebrate Purple Heart Day. Today America recognizes the brave men and women wounded or killed while serving. We celebrate this day today because it’s the anniversary of the medal’s creation. George Washington created the military award during the Revolutionary War. Back then, he called it the Badge of Military Merit. Soldiers earned it by demonstrating exceptional bravery on the battlefield.
Then, in 1932, the medal became the Purple Heart. That’s because the medal was renamed to honor Washington’s coat of arms, which featured a purple field with white stars. In 2000, Congress established August 7th as National Purple Heart Recognition Day…Wounded or killed in action service members are eligible to receive the Purple Heart.
The above image is from June 9, 2017 (courtesy of AP Photo/Carlos Osorio). The medal belongs to former Army medic James McCloughan. McCloughan saved 10 soldiers’ lives during a Vietnam War battle, a remarkable feat.
John Footman was wounded twice in Vietnam — once with a shot to the leg, and several years later from an exploding mine. Both times, soldiers “close to him” were killed. “When you lose a battle buddy you try to pick up more of your battle buddies and try to move on,” he said.
Make the Connection shared stories of Purple Heart recipients, including two Marines they simply call Rich and Justin. “There was nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. The shells were raining down on us,” Rich recalled of his nightmarish experience in the Vietnam War. Mortar rounds and explosions filled the air, and Rich was wounded. “I saw so many of my buddies that were hit real bad,” he stated. “A couple were dead. It’s a sight that I don’t ever care to see again.”
Justin, meanwhile, was seriously wounded during a “routine combat patrol in Iraq.” His fellow Marines thought he was dead when sniper fire hit him behind his left ear. “I’m only here because a young Navy corpsman showed amazing courage under fire and saved my life,” Justin said.
Not many Civil War soldiers were awarded the Purple Heart, but N. Benton Yackey was one of them. A newspaper clipping from the Louisiana Advocate describes him as having shown “valor in action in a Civil War skirmish near Memphis, Mo., on August 2, 1862, when he was shot five times. He still carries two of the bullets in his side.” The clipping is from 1934. Yackey was the Vice-Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR—an organization for Union veterans) in Colorado and Wyoming post-war.
Army soldier Loren Anderson fought across France and Germany in World War II. He was heading a patrol in Neuendorf when the Germans opened fire, and Anderson and his comrades took shelter in a Catholic chapel. “The Germans were throwing everything in there, and they brought in some big shell, and I still remember, a big shell going down the aisle and hitting the alter [sic] where some of our men were, then the screams,” he said. “I was wounded that night. They were throwing in all kinds of grenades, concussion grenades, my helmet was taking it, mostly. But after a while I lost my glasses and got hit with a little bit of shrapnel.” Anderson received three weeks of medical treatment before finishing out the war in active service.
To all Purple Heart recipients, thank you for your sacrifice.
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