Let it be known that he who wears the military order of the purple heart has given of his blood in the defense of his homeland and shall forever be revered by his fellow countrymen.
George Washington, commander of Continental Army, 1782
Once a month, some of us ladies from the Daughters of the American Revolution go up to Camp Pendleton to make a home cooked meal for the wounded warriors. The new barracks house 200 wounded warriors and, overlooking a lake and surrounding mountains, it is gorgeous. Even though it has a nice kitchen where the guys and girls - yes, there are wounded women Marines - could cook for themselves, most walk down the road to the hospital cafeteria for meals. So a home cooked meal is a treat, especially with a bunch of mother types cooking and serving.
This week was special as we were invited to a Purple Heart ceremony for Sargent Gonzales, wounded in combat in Iraq five years ago as a Marine in the Third Battalion, 1st Marine Expeditionary force, and now a member of the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Camp Pendleton.
A Marine officer spoke to Sgt. Gonzales' bravery and dedication as a satchel demolition expert in Fallujah, but also to the "we are your family", no Marine left behind philosophy. This ideal extends to wounded Marines who can remain active duty while they recover and either return to their unit or transition into civilian life. About half stay in the Marine Corps, some returning for another tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Finally, Sgt. Gonzales took the podium and gave an amazing speech. More so, as he came into the kitchen later and told us one of his injuries was TBI (traumatic brain injury) and he had been very anxious for a couple weeks about having to talk in front of a crowd.
I noticed tattooed on his right forearm "NO SACRIFICE" and on his left "NO VICTORY".
Just as amazing were the Marines sitting at attention, hands on knees, pretty much motionless, on the hot tarmac for the entire ceremony. I suspected their third grade teachers would have seen very different behaviors.
After the ceremony, while the sargent's comrades lined up to speak with him, his two boys played basketball,
and got some coaching from another Marine.
My D.A.R. buddies and I headed into the kitchen to make and serve dinner.
Sometimes the warrior's wounds are evident - the missing hand or leg, the cane, the way he/she walks, the surgical scar across the skull. At other times, they're not - the abdominal wounds covered by the uniform, the TBI's, the psychic injury. Always, though, they come into the kitchen to thank us for making their dinner. They, who have given so much.
Happy 4th of July! It's about more than beach and fireworks and picnics. Remember those back to the 1700's who have made your Fourth possible!