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Wounded combat veterans carry on legacy of the 'Purple Heart'

Purple Heart Photo Web.PNG
Posted at 3:19 PM, Aug 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-03 08:43:30-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — In a split second, Skyler Barker's legacy was sealed.

"I was wounded Dec. 6, 2006 in Ramadi, Iraq. And I was hit with an improvised grenade," said Barker.

The same for fellow combat veteran Ryan Morse.

"I would not change anything at all," said Morse.

And Vietnam War veteran Lazaro Camarillo.

"It (shrapnel) hit me real close, and I was blinded for 26 hours," said Camarillo.

In an instant, Barker, Morse and Camarillo became members of an honorable and prestigious military group: recipients of the Purple Heart.

It's the oldest United States military medal awarded to service members killed or wounded by enemy action.

The Purple Heart today, was originally a stitched patch that was awarded to the wounded after the American Revolutionary War.

It was originally called the Badge of Military Merit.

After it was largely forgotten, in 1932 on the anniversary of George Washington's Birthday, General Douglas McArthur revived it.

"This (Purple Heart) is one metal nobody asks for," said Camarillo.

"It's the metal that nobody wants," said Barker. "To some, it means, man the enemy got one over on me. And then sometimes it's hard especially when you have buddies and friends that don't have legs or arms."

Barker, Morse and Camarillo are three of nearly two-million American servicemen to receive the Purple Heart. To them, it's an honor, but it's not something to brag about.

"At no point in time do we want anything special, do we want special privileges or anyone to pat us on the back and say 'I'm so sorry this happened to you' because we're not (sorry)," said Morse.

"What we want when somebody sees a purple heart, is it's not about us, we just want them to understand that we are the walking legacy of everyone that we've lost since 1782," said Barker.

"Blood, fear and war and a lot of tears—especially for the ones that we already lost that you are never going to forget," said Camarillo.

These three men are leaders in a local chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart MOPH 598.

Their group is named after fellow Purple Heart recipients Andy Alaniz and Roger Valentine who were killed in combat.

The group is active in the Coastal Bend community. It provides support for fellow Purple Heart recipients and their families.

"You know we're not a sit around and feel sorry for ourselves organization," said Morse "This is an organization that's is dedicated specifically to providing service back out to the veterans — to wounded veterans — families in the community at large," said Morse.

"That's with the Purple Heart is about—taking care of unfinished business and keep it moving forward, and we can only hope that people behind us do the same thing," said Barker.

More Veterans In Focus stories are available here, along with resources for local veterans.