Active-duty Marines and sailors joined Korean War, Vietnam and World War II veterans Wednesday to celebrate a bond forged in blood, pain and sacrifice.
More than 30 people gathered in the Recruit Chapel at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island to honor recipients of the nation's oldest military honor, the Purple Heart, and observe Purple Heart Recognition Day, created to "remember and recognize those people willing to serve our country, no matter the price," according to the National Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Inside the chapel, World War II and Korean War veterans sat shoulder to shoulder with active-duty Marines like Sgt. Bradford Price, who received the Purple Heart after being injured by an improvised explosive device during a patrol in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2006.
Price said the ceremony was a reminder of the bond that all Purple Heart recipients share.
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"I really enjoy that connection to the past," Price said. "When you're active-duty, you tend to only be around other active-duty Marines, but here there are veterans from Korea, Vietnam and even World War II. There is a strong link between us and them."
Wednesday's ceremony was organized by Beaufort's Col. Jimmie Leach Memorial Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
The Purple Heart was created by Gen. George Washington in 1782 as the "Badge of Military Merit." Though never officially abolished, the medal was not awarded again until 1932 under President Herbert Hoover, who bestowed the honor upon Gen. Douglas MacArthur and more than 150,000 soldiers wounded or killed in combat during World War I.
To date, more than 1.7 million American service members have received the Purple Heart, according to the National Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Notable Purple Heart recipients include author Kurt Vonnegut, film director Oliver Stone, President John F. Kennedy and U.S. Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz.
Parris Island is home to the Purple Heart Memorial, a 5-foot slab of black granite that bears the image of the medal, along with an excerpt from James Babbington Macaulay's poem "Horatius." The monument was dedicated in August 2008, and sits along Boulevard de France near the depot's parade deck.
Brig. Gen. Lori Reynolds, the base's commanding general, said the base is proud to have the monument on its grounds.
"No one seeks to earn this medal but those who do wear it with great pride," Reynolds said. "Those who wear the Purple Heart have faced the enemy, left their blood on the battlefield and were fortunate enough to return home. They wear it in honor of and as a testament to those who did not make it home."
Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.