Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates presented Purple Hearts to two Soldiers June 30 during a ceremony at the Warrior and Family Support Center.

Sgt. Legrand Strickland, Company C, 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry, 4th Brigade Combat Team, was injured Feb. 2 while on patrol in Afghanistan. His vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. Strickland stood with the assistance of a handmade cane carved with an eagle's head as Gates pinned his Purple Heart.

"My husband was supposed to receive the Purple Heart at Fort Bragg [N.C.] from his guys, when they get home from Afghanistan. But, when we found out the Secretary was going to be here awarding the Purple Heart, we decided it would be a wonderful opportunity to meet him and shake his hand," said Strickland's wife, Carrie. "It was a real blessing."

Spc. Reed Jones III, Company G, 40th Combat Support Battalion, was injured Aug. 11, 2009 in Afghanistan. His team was engaged in a complex attack that included small arms fire and an IED while returning from patrol.

Initially created as the Badge of Military Merit by Gen. George Washington, the Purple Heart is the oldest military decoration in present use. It is awarded to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy.

Following the ceremony, the Soldiers were greeted by Family and friends, receiving hugs and posing for photographs. Gates met with wounded warriors at the WFSC prior to the ceremony and also visited Brooke Army Medical Center.