Historic Mount Vernon, home of President George Washington, played host to a celebration of the Army's 238th birthday, a wreath laying ceremony and the pinning of Purple Heart Medals on three wounded Soldiers Monday morning.
Secretary of the Army, John M. McHugh began the proceedings by participating in a wreath laying ceremony at George Washington's tomb. He then gave remarks to celebrate the Army's birthday, during which he acknowledged the history and significance of the Purple Heart medal, prior to the Purple Heart ceremony.
"This is the second year we've had the honor of being at Mount Vernon to celebrate the Army birthday," said McHugh. "George Washington's history intertwines with the Army, so this is truly the perfect place to hold the Army birthday celebration."
Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III echoed McHugh's feelings that the home of the first commander-in-chief is an ideal location for such a celebration.
"It's kicking off a week-long celebration where we start at the very beginning with the person who created the purple heart and recognizing the service and sacrifice of our soldiers for the past 238 years," said Chandler. "I never thought of being a part of the Army Birthday when I came into the Army, but to be a part of it is a pretty humbling experience."
Laying the wreath at the tomb of George Washington is also a special event to participate in, according to Chandler.
"You're laying the wreath at the tomb of one of the founding fathers, the first commander-in-chief and president of the United States," said Chandler. "He's interred here and you have the opportunity to be a part of history. It's truly amazing."
The three Purple Heart recipients were wounded in Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012. Sgt. Sean P. Karpf, C Company, 1st Battalion., 508th Regiment, 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division was wounded in Kandahar, Afghanistan on June 15, 2012 while on a mission to train Afghanistan forces. Sgt. Cory A. Doane, C Co., 2nd Bn., 87th Infantry, 3rd Brig., 10th Mountain Division was injured on July 3, 2011 in Kandahar, Afghanistan while conducting combat operations. Spec. Aerial Lopez, B Battery, 4th Bn., 319th Airborne Field Artillery based out of Bamberg, Germany was injured in Wardak Province, Afghanistan on Aug. 8, 2012.
Presenting the three enlisted Soldiers with Purple Heart Medals at Mount Vernon on the Army birthday is significant to McHugh because the first three purple hearts ever handed out were given to three enlisted Revolutionary War Soldiers by George Washington.
"George Washington bestowed the first purple hearts on three enlisted Soldiers," said McHugh. "The same thing is happening here today."
Receiving the award is an honor, according to Lopez, but not a goal he set when he joined the Army.
To have the award ceremony during the Army Birthday celebration at Mount Vernon is a nice honor, according to Karpf.
"To have it during the Army Birthday celebration here at Mount Vernon is pretty cool," said Karpf.
Reflecting on and recognizing the selfless sacrifice of Army Soldiers the past 238 years is something Chandler takes pride in and says we should never forget.
"It's great to have the ability in our country and our Army to recognize the service and sacrifice of so many millions over the past 238 years," said Chandler. "It's also great to look to the future at where we are headed which is a more professional and competent Army."