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Top Leaders Honor Wounded Heroes at Mount Vernon Ceremony

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

MOUNT VERNON, Va., April 20, 2006 – Top DoD and Army leaders gathered here at the home of the country's first war hero today to honor soldiers wounded in Iraq.

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Army Capt. Robert Klinger shakes hands with Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England after being presented with the Purple Heart Medal during an award ceremony on George Washington's Mount Vernon estate, in Mount Vernon, Va., April 20, 2006. Defense Dept. photo by William D. Moss
  

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"I feel very lucky, very lucky. It's nice being married to your own personal hero," Mollie Borders, the wife of Purple Heart recipient Army Staff Sgt. John Borders, said at a special award ceremony at Mount Vernon, Va.

Earlier, Mrs. Borders fought back tears when Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England shook hands with her husband after Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody pinned the Purple Heart onto the staff sergeant's camouflaged uniform shirt.

Borders, a 32-year-old London, Ohio, native, was one of seven soldiers who received the Purple Heart Medal for wounds they received during duty in Iraq.

England told the award recipients they're part of a new generation of U.S. servicemembers who've been called upon to defend their country against its enemies, this time during the global war on terrorism.

The awardees joined the more than 500,000 living Purple Heart recipients who've "all served and all sacrificed in the name of something higher than themselves," England said.

"It is a profound honor for me to thank each of you and your families for your service, your sacrifice, your dedication, your courage, and your commitment," England said, noting that he and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld "and the entire Department of Defense are profoundly grateful to you."

England added: "The President and the government of the United States honor you, and the American people are deeply in your debt."

The other soldiers who received Purple Hearts at the ceremony are:

  • National Guard Spc. Garrett Anderson, 28, Grand Rapids, Mich.;
  • Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Suzanne Haskins, 45, Seaville, N.J.;
  • National Guard Capt. Robert Klinger, 38, Frederick, Md.;
  • Army Spc. Sergio Lopez, 23, Bollingbrook, Ill.;
  • Army 2nd Lt. Adrian Perez, 30, Vancouver, Wash.; and
  • Army Pfc. Maxwell Ramsey, 36, Hilton Head, S.C.

Mollie Borders said she's always been proud of her husband. "It's nice to see him get recognized," she said.

"It was an outstanding ceremony, better than I thought it was going to be," Staff Sgt. Borders said.

Anderson, who lost his right forearm after an improvised explosive device attack, said he, too, appreciated the award ceremony. "It makes you feel good about serving your country," he said.

Haskins called the ceremony wonderful. She pointed out that women have earned their stripes in the U.S. military. "There are more females nowadays getting wounded than there were in the past," Haskins said.

Mount Vernon was the home of George Washington. Washington first authorized the Badge of Military Merit, now called the Purple Heart Medal, in 1782 to honor his soldiers for meritorious service during the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783.

The award was discontinued after the Revolutionary War until 1932, when it was revived by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Today the Purple Heart is awarded to servicemen and women who are wounded or killed in service to their country.

"Washington understood that soldiers in battle deserve to be recognized for their sacrifices," Cody said at the ceremony. The Purple Heart has become an American military tradition and "a hallowed signature of service and commitment to duty," he said.

"If you wear the Purple Heart you represent the finest of America," Cody said. "A Purple Heart on your chest means you have triumphed in the face of danger and adversity while serving our country."

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Biographies:
Gordon England
Gen. Richard Cody, USA

Click photo for screen-resolution imageGeorge Washington, commander of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and the first president of the United States, originated the Purple Heart Medal. After the American colonists won their freedom from England, the medal was discontinued until Gen. Douglas MacArthur revived it in 1932. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Spc. Garret Anderson speaks with Bill Chatfield, director of Selective Service, during a Purple Heart award ceremony on George Washington's Mount Vernon estate, in Mount Vernon, Va., April 20, 2006. Defense Dept. photo by William D. Moss  
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