Purple Heart Ceremony Kicks Off Army Birthday Celebration at Mount Vernon
June 12, 2013
Three Soldiers recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center received the Purple Heart Medal at Mount Vernon, Va., Monday to commemorate the 238-year-old heritage of the U.S. Army.
The ceremony which honored Sgts. Cory Doane, Sean Karpf, and Spc. Arael Lopez set off a week-long series of events in the national capital region to celebrate the Army's Birthday.
Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh pinned the three wounded warriors with the Purple Heart after placing a wreath at the tomb of the nation's first president and the Army's first commander, Gen. George Washington. He said he appreciated the opportunity to begin the Army Birthday celebration at the home of George Washington, which also marks the beginning of the Purple Heart Trail.
"While it begins here, it's a series of roadways and trails throughout all 50 of the United States that was designed to pay tribute to the men and women of our armed forces who have been awarded the Purple Heart," McHugh explained.
"At Washington's first ceremony where he awarded the Purple Heart, he bestowed it upon three enlisted Soldiers. This morning we have the opportunity and the high honor to pay tribute to three of today's enlisted Soldiers," McHugh said. "For 238 years the United States Army has been there to support and defend as today's Soldiers have shown by their service and their sacrifice, with the strictest of integrity."
Doane, 22, of Vancouver, Wash., sustained injury from an improvised explosive device (IED) during a search and destroy mission in Kandahar, Afghanistan on July 3, 2011. The infantryman's injury resulted in a right, below-knee-amputation.
Jacksonville, Florida-native, Karpf, 28, deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan in February 2012. Four months later, he sustained injury from an IED that resulted in a left, below-knee-amputation.
"Being here [at Mount Vernon] and actually having a[n Army Birthday] celebration is pretty cool," he said.
Lopez, 33, explained how he felt to receive his Purple Heart. "I am honored," he said.
His father, Aramis Lopez, said he was moved to tears as he watched McHugh pin the medal on his son's Army uniform at the home of the father of our country.
"I feel so proud and I just couldn't hold myself back…I got tears coming out of my eyes, I'm so proud of him--very proud."
The native of Ponce, Puerto Rico sustained a series of injuries, including wounds to his left arm and hearing loss in his left ear, from a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) explosion followed by a dismounted IED on Aug. 8, 2012, in Wardak Province, Afghanistan.
"Recognizing the young men with the Purple Heart for their wounds on the battlefield--they had to be able to be professionals in order to do that," explained Sgt. Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III.
"It's great to be able to have the ability in our country, in our Army to recognize the service and sacrifice of so many millions over the past 238 years, but also to look toward the future," he said. "We've got some great people today in our Army as we've had in the past 238 years and I'm just excited for the opportunity to serve."
Washington established the Purple Heart award in 1782. He designated the badge of military merit available to service members of all ranks who performed with virtuous ambition, unusual gallantry, and extraordinary fidelity, explained Ann Bookout, the 20th Regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, the organization that owns and operated the Mount Vernon property for the American people for more than 150 years.
Although the Purple Heart that Washington first established was discontinued after the Revolutionary War, it was reintroduced on Feb. 22, 1932, the 200th anniversary of Washington's birthday.