The Lowcountry joined the nation Friday in honoring recipients of America's oldest military decoration, whether earned by airmen, sailors or soldiers in Germany, Japan or Afghanistan.
Members of Beaufort's chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, representatives of other chapters from across the state and more than 75 active-duty Marines gathered inside the Recruit Chapel at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island for an hour-long ceremony in observance of Purple Heart Recognition Day. The day was designed to "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.
Read at Friday's ceremony was a proclamation from Gov. Mark Sanford naming Aug. 7 "Purple Heart Recognition Day" in South Carolina, an honor befitting the sacrifice made by more than 60 Beaufort-area residents and more than 50 Marines currently stationed at Parris Island. A similar proclamation was made by Beaufort County Council Chairman Weston Newton and presented to Brig. Gen. Frederick Padilla, Parris Island's new commanding general.
In the presence of Purple Heart recipients from World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, Padilla said those veterans served as the example for the Marines who graduate from the depot almost every week.
"The young men and women of the Armed Forces today are completely sound. They're great Americans," he said. "So it's fitting that we take some time -- one day -- ... (for) those who understand what it means to sacrifice for something bigger."
The Purple Heart was created by Gen. George Washington in 1782 as the "Badge of Military Merit." Though never 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, 1.7 million American service members have received the Purple Heart, according to the National Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Although the day was largely aimed at honoring Purple Heart recipients in attendance, many at Friday's ceremony had their minds on recipients who were killed in combat.
"They were our buddies," said Glenn Blackburn, a Purple Heart recipient and Friday's master of ceremonies, his voice cracking. "Though their voices rest in silence, their spirits do not sleep."
Parris Island is also home to the Purple Heart Memorial, a five-foot tall monument made of black granite that bears the image of the medal itself, along with an excerpt from James Babbington Macaulay's poem "Horatius." Dedicated last August, the memorial is on Boulevard de France, near the parade deck and next toa monument honoring the depot's drill instructors.