Some Soldiers have had to wait a lifetime to receive a Purple Heart they earned in combat. Pfc. Joshua K. Winters could have collected his medal right there on the battlefield in Iraq where he was injured, but he chose to wait. He wanted to share the moment with his mother, Cindy Winters, and his fiancAfA, Caprice Brown.

"That says a lot about him as a man," said Brig. Gen. Arnold Gordon-Bray, director of G-3/5/7 at IMCOM Headquarters. "Equally important are the family members who watch TV and read the obituaries hoping they never have to see what they don't want to see."

Winters was awarded the Purple Heart Friday afternoon at the Brooke Army Medical Center's Warrior and Family Support Center. He sustained small arms fire to his leg during duty Sept. 7, while serving as an infantryman with the 25th Infantry Division.

Bray heaped accolades on Winters and those who step forward every day to defend freedom.

"I (ordered) men and women like you to go into harm's way and you never flinched," he said. "You understood full well what that meant. You represent the best in America because you walked to the front of the line. To be Army strong is to stand up in harm's way, when everyone else walks away."

Winters joined an elite group of Soldiers who have been wounded, or killed in battle. The Purple Heart is the oldest military decoration in the United States history and the first American award given to common Soldiers.

Originally called the Badge of Military Merit, General George Washington began awarding the medal to recognize valor on the battlefield. In 1782, the Continental Congress ordered him to stop doing so for lack of funds, but the award was reinstated in 1932. To date, about 43,000 servicemembers have earned it.

Four of them attended the ceremony to welcome Winters into their fraternity. They attend every Purple Heart ceremony in the San Antonio area.

"As a group of Purple Heart (awardees), we see them as family," said Bill Johnson, a Vietnam War veteran. "We feel obligated to help take care of these guys. We know what they feel like."

In true Soldier spirit, Winters brushed off his own injury to consider his battle buddies abroad.

"I always knew getting hurt was a possibility, but it's worth it. I'd do it again in a heartbeat," he said. "I'm just still worried about my guys over there."