Jacksonville honors Purple Heart heirs
August 13, 2009
<b> JACKSONVILLE, Fla. </b>-"All gave some; some gave all."
This phrase is spoken in honor of those military members who were wounded in combat or paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. These military members are awarded one of our country's most honored decorations, the Purple Heart.
The Purple Heart is the oldest American military decoration in the world in present use, and on Aug. 6, the city of Jacksonville, Fla., and the Northeast Florida Veterans Council honored the medal and all of those wounded in combat with a ceremony at the Veterans Memorial Wall in Jacksonville.
"It shows the sacrifices of those who went to war, those who were wounded and came back and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom," said Petty Officer 1st Class (Ret.) Dave Seamans, a 20-year Navy veteran and chairman for the Jacksonville Purple Heart Day Ceremony. "It shows the military how we reflect on them. For the fallen's Families, it shows we honor them and to the Purple Heart recipients, especially, it shows the honor and great respect we have for them, as well."
Seamans' son, Pfc. Timothy Seamans, was killed August 2005 in Samarra, Iraq when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during a mine assessing mission.
Those in attendance at the ceremony included Roslyn Burrough, renowned opera singer; U.S. Navy Capt. (Ret.) John Buehn, chief military affairs for the city of Jacksonville; and Brig. Gen. Patrick Donahue II, the 3rd Infantry Division deputy commanding general (maneuver) and keynote speaker at the day's events.
Brigadier General Donahue spoke of the award's rich history, which ties back to the Revolutionary War. He reminded the audience that the award did not start as a decoration given to those wounded in conflict during enemy action. It grew over time into what it is today. He also reminded them of the number of Soldiers who have been wounded in combat.
"There have been more than 1.7 million Purple Hearts issued," he said. "Unfortunately, that number grows every day."
He explained a Fort Stewart tradition that honors 3rd ID Soldiers who have lost their lives during enemy conflict by planting an eastern red bud tree.
"We started in early 2003 with about 30 or so," said Brig. Gen. Donahue. "As it has grown, we now have a series of sidewalks. We've had 720 Soldiers killed in action during Iraq and Afghanistan. It's a very powerful image seeing the rows of trees and knowing that each one represents a Soldier who has lost his life."
Air Force Tech. Sgt. (Ret.) John W. Testy, 91 years old, World War II veteran and the oldest living recipient present at the ceremony, recounted his World War II experience and the reasons why he was awarded the Purple Heart.
"In March, I was shot down over Hungary and survived. In May, I was shot down again in Austria and survived," said Testy. "They sent me home for 30 days, and when they asked me to join up with another group, I agreed to it."
Testy received a standing ovation for his speech.
After the ceremony, the more than 100 in attendance, despite the constant downpour of rain, walked the memorial trail in silence in honor of Purple Heart recipients past and present, alive and deceased.
"It's a solemn moment," said Seamans. "It's a silent moment, basically saying that we are walking and completing the mission."