It’s the oldest military award still given to U.S. service members. The Purple Heart is awarded to servicemen and women who are killed or wounded while serving.
Today, the Fayetteville VA honored local veterans who have received this award.
An estimated 1.8 million service members have received the Purple Heart, but for many veterans, the medal is a personal reminder of their sacrifice.
“We lost 59 men on that one day, it was a tragic battle,” says Derl Horn, a Vietnam War veteran.
Horn enlisted in the Marines in 1966. He served in Cuba and Vietnam. He was wounded in action on July 2, 1967, during a battled called Operation Buffalo.
“I was one of the 26 survivors of that battle,” Horn explains. “I’m happy to have been a survivor, I still mourn for my fallen brothers but I’m proud to have served and I’m proud to be a Marine.”
He received the Purple Heart in honor of the blood he shed for his country.
Horn is this year’s recipient of the Patriot of the Year Award for the work he has done with the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
He serves as the VA’s voluntary services officer, helps raise money for veterans and has personally volunteered more than 500 hours of his time to serve veterans.
“Not just the Purple Heart, all veterans, it’s important that they serve, no matter what they do,” Horn says.
The VA holds the ceremony every year as a way to thank Purple Heart veterans for their service.
“The community needs to realize what they have done for us, we’re standing here today because of what they gave and what they did, and it’s just one little way, one day during the year when we can honor them,” says Carol Kick, the chief of voluntary services at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks.
“It’s uplifting and it’s a real honor,” Horn says.
The Purple Heart is the second highest medal a veteran can receive for being wounded or killed in action. The ceremony also honored gold star families whose loved ones gave their lives for their country.