Purple Heart veterans help new generation of wounded - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Purple Heart veterans help new generation of wounded

By Donna McCollum

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The Purple Heart is a symbol of courage during turbulent times. Purple Heart recipients attending the state convention in Nacogdoches could all recall the precise moment they were hurt. "There was a booby trap that went off and I had shrapnel," shared Tony Roman, Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 1836 in San Antonio. The retired Marine is a member of the nation's largest Purple Heart chapter. "I was wounded on Dec. 23 of 1967 in Vietnam by a mortar attack," recalled Federico Rey, Commander for the state of Texas. He's retired army. "I got shot the first time I was in Vietnam. It was 1968. In 1970 I went back. I got wounded in '71. That's when I got blown off an armor personnel carrier," stated John Footman, Department Senior Vice Commander for Chapter 1876. They are three men with husky voices that portray the stereotype of military members from the Vietnam era.

Then Anna king stepped up and frankly said, "I was injured on May 26, 2007 in Iraq. I was hit by a mortar." The young, petite former Army captain is trying her best to fit in with all these graying veterans. Some wear their medal proudly. To Anna it's still bittersweet. "I was a lifer. I really wanted to stay in the Army," she said with a pensive look. Instead it ended her career, but these veterans are helping her adjust. They're encouraging new veterans to seek treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (PTSD)  "Vietnam veterans didn't receive treatment for 30 years, although they had PTSD all this time," explained Rey.  "Their wives didn't understand them. Our friends didn't understand them. That is hopefully not going to be the case here." "They don't know how to relate with society," observed Footman, who spends time with returning soldiers.

Blame guilt. "I was an officer. I had a few of my soldiers that actually did not come home. That's difficult because you want to bring everybody home," said King. Purple Heart chapters are emphasizing therapy and that's something not readily accepted. "I hated it. I hate the idea of having to go to counseling. I hate the idea of saying I have therapists. I hate all that because it's weak,"  admitted King. But over time minds are changed. She says it's the stronger thing to do. "There are even some guys here who say they're still seeking help. It's good to know you're not alone," said King.  

And it helped King to develop a repoire with the older fellow military officers. They still hugged her neck and joked about wanting to be young again, but it led to laughter. That's something nice for two generations to share.    

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