Retired Soldier receives Purple Heart
April 4, 2014
An Army specialist and Lebanon, Mo., native laid unconscious in a hospital bed in 2009 when his wife received the Purple Heart he earned in combat.
Retired Spc. Stephen Marcum was honored and personally received his medal at a Fort Leonard Wood ceremony March 31.
The Purple Heart is the oldest military award that is still given to members of the U.S. military.
"This ceremony means a lot to me. But nothing like it would have meant to have it in uniform amongst my brothers and sisters in arms," Marcum said. "I know I earned my award, but I feel part of having a ceremony is a way for the Army to say, we recognize you and what you have went through. We, the Army, care about you like a brother and the sacrifices you will live with."
Brig. Gen. Mark Spindler, U.S. Army Military Police School commandant, presided over the ceremony, held in the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence?'s Thurman Hall.
"The Purple Heart is really for the healing of the unit. It's the full circle -- it's the unit that recognizes you put yourself out there at the risk of full sacrifice," Spindler said. "There is no greater privilege than pinning on a Purple Heart."
This particular circle began in 2009 when Marcum deployed with the 293rd Military Police Company, Fort Stewart, Ga.
His platoon came under fire in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Marcum's Humvee was hit, causing it to land on its roof.
He was thrown from the vehicle and suffered two broken arms, a broken femur, a shattered tibia and fibula, and a fractured skull that caused damage to his frontal lobe.
Marcum remained in a coma for more than a month. After eight days of undergoing numerous surgeries in Germany, he was transferred to Tampa, Fla., to undergo treatment for traumatic brain injury.
It was while he was heavily medicated that Marcum's wife, Mary Beth, was given the Purple Heart on his behalf.
"She showed it to me multiple times, but I was going in and out due to medication," Marcum said. "I had to be told multiple times where I was and what had happened by my wife and other Family."
Once Marcum had returned to full consciousness he was struck with a feeling of regret and loss.
"My reaction when my wife gave me the medal was a sadness," he said. "Honored to have it, but at the same time did not want it. (It) was a reminder of what happened that day and of an outstanding man who was KIA (killed in action) in the truck with me -- Staff Sgt. Christopher Rudzinski."
Marcum's father, Danny, became determined to see that he received a proper ceremony, after having a Warrior Transition Unit at another installation refuse to do so.
During his welcome home ceremony last June in Lebanon, Marcum's father met some MP Soldiers from Fort Leonard, which triggered the formal ceremony for the Family.
"I'm real proud of him. Proud of all the (military) men and women who are doing their jobs," said Danny, who is himself an Army Vietnam veteran.
Spindler emphasized how important it is to hold these ceremonies to bring recognition to such individuals.
"We know it's important in this culture, in this environment and in this great institution that we call the Army, and we need to recognize those that stand by which we should measure ourselves," Spindler said.
Marcum said he owes his life to his fellow Soldiers.
"My guys who I deployed with--I wouldn't be here except for every day that we trained, we trained like we fought and everybody knew what their job was," Marcum said. "That's why I'm here, otherwise I wouldn't be standing before you."
"If you ask me how I'm doing, nine times out of 10, I will tell you I'm doing good," he added. "Honestly, everyday is a rollercoaster at best. But if I acted how I feel, I would end up laying in bed and wither away."
Marcum is currently residing in Lebanon with his wife Mary Beth and two children.
He spends his time sitting on the board for the non-profit organization called S.C.A.N. (Supporting Children with Additional Needs).