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Leaders of new FLW Purple Heart chapter plan to help wounded veterans
Leaders of new FLW Purple Heart chapter plan to help wounded veterans

Members of the new Fort Leonard Wood Chapter 110 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart are sworn in Tuesday at Fort Leonard Wood.
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (July 1, 2009) — It’s not uncommon to see soldiers with injuries at Fort Leonard Wood; in addition to wounded servicemembers returning from combat, the installation is home to a Warrior Transition Unit that helps Army personnel who have been injured in combat as they return to duty or transition into civilian life. On Tuesday, 47 active duty soldiers and veterans in the Fort Leonard Wood area received a new charter as Chapter 140 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, an organization of wounded veterans working to encourage and support other injured military personnel.

State officials expect the new chapter to grow rapidly.

“Most often, when we charter a new chapter, the minimum number that we must have in order to charter is 12, and as some of my fellow patriots over here know, sometimes you’ve got to squeeze, beg, twist arms, and everything else to get that first 12 to charter that organization,” said Jim Young, chief of staff for the Department of Missouri of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and a member of Chapter 621 in Springfield.

Getting people to sign up in the Fort Leonard Wood area hasn’t been a problem at all, he said.

“In typical Fort Wood fashion where things are done very, very well, (the charter has) 47 members, and that, my friends, is quite an event,” Young said. “We are told by our national membership secretary that online memberships from this area are coming in so fast that she believes that within the next 30 days, the membership of this chapter will be roughly 100.”

As America’s oldest military decoration still in use, the Purple Heart dates back to the Revolutionary War, was revived following World War I, and is awarded to any American serviceman who has been wounded or killed while serving in the military, or who dies after being wounded.

While anyone who has received the Purple Heart is eligible for membership, considerable efforts are made to verify the military record of applicants for membership, Young said.

“We are proud of the fact that we are a veterans’ organization that no one can join without showing a set of orders,” Young said. “You can be assured that they are combat-wounded veterans; we guard that very, very jealously … we don’t consider it vanity to have honest pride in our eligibility for this distinctive organization. In fact, when I have sworn members in, the first thing I do is say, ‘Welcome to the order, and I’m sorry you’re eligible.’”

Clayton Jones, a Nixa resident who serves as National Junior Vice-Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, asked any combat medics in the audience to stand. Many did.

“These are my heroes because they don’t know what the word ‘fear’ is,” Jones said. “When you think the world is about to end for you, and here comes this individual who is going to take care of you, and I want to thank you very much.”

Jones said the organization’s primary purpose is to help fellow wounded veterans, and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Wells added specifics.

“What can Chapter 140 do for Fort Leonard Wood?” Wells asked. “I can think of no better people than these people right here that can talk to our soldiers and welcome them back to the Fort Leonard Wood area and give them the tough love that they’re really going to need to get themselves ready for their next deployment, because there is no end in sight.”

That includes talking to people with injuries that are serious enough to require continued medical attention.

“We’re going to be talking to the Warrior Transition Company and the soldiers out there and help them along with their rehabilitation back from post-deployment activities and get them ready for pre-deployment activities,” Wells said.

Wells said he hopes to also host one or two annual events in the surrounding community to support wounded veterans.

“There’s an awful lot that goes into helping out a wounded soldier,” Wells said. “If you ask anybody, I really wish I weren’t here right now with a little purple heart over my heart, but it happened and we did it willingly, and we’re here to serve our country in the best way that we can.”

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