Purple Heart recipients at center of ceremony

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 12, 2009

Vicksburg native and Purple Heart recipient 1st Sgt. Daniel Murray traveled from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., to stand with about 300 others for the traditional Veterans Day ceremony in the Municipal Rose Garden on Monroe Street that included a special event — dedication of a monument to all who’ve earned the Purple Heart.

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Murray, 33, who was presented the medal because on Oct. 17, 2006, he and six other Americans were wounded when three 122mm mortar rounds were dropped to their traffic control point in Al Anbar Province in Ramadi, Iraq.

Murray, who was a platoon sergeant at the time, said he took shrapnel in his foot, leg, hands and back, requiring about 20 stitches.

“They give the medal while you’re lying on the gurney. You get the paperwork later,” Murray said.

He felt lucky he was treated for only two days for his injuries.

“One guy had more than 100 pieces of shrapnel in his back,” Murray said. “One lost an eye and much of his intestine.”

At the time he was wounded, Murray had been in the Army for 12 years and was familiar with the territory. Unlike the other soldiers, who soon left the military, Murray stayed to fulfill his goal of providing a better life for his sons Cyrus, 9, and Ethan, 7.

“I still loved my job,” he said. “Every job has pros and cons. It’s strange what you can get used to.”

During a subsequent tour in Afghanistan, Murray was hit twice by Improvised Explosive Devices — roadside bombs — while on convoys.

The homemade devices are designed to kill or injure and now are more difficult to detect as they become more sophisticated.

 “I got a piece of shrapnel in Afghanistan. It was minimal, so we kept driving,” he said. His mother, Mary Louis Murray, lives in Vicksburg.

Many others who have suffered injuries in combat were at Wednesday’s ceremony to pay homage to all veterans and service men and women.

Members of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Cooties, Vicksburg High School Army JROTC, Warren Central High School Navy JROTC, the 412th Engineer Command and Vicksburg citizens watched as post commanders unveiled the new memorial.

Erected on Oct. 5 to honor all Purple Heart veterans, the monument is the first new monument in the garden in about 20 years, said Jeff Richardson, city landscape architect. It was paid for with private donations and supplements from the City of Vicksburg and Warren County.

Originally called the Badge of Military Merit, the medal is the oldest U.S. military decoration, created by Gen. George Washington during the American Revolution.

The 412th Engineer Command Chief of Staff Col. David Hollands said America’s all-volunteer military service branches have many challenges, including finding young people fit enough and qualified to join. He said when he meets those who made the cut, he often asks why they joined and is told the economic benefits and the challenges are the attraction. One who stood out, Hollands said, was a soldier who “wanted to finish the mission his brother started when he was killed in Iraq.”

Quoting Thomas Jefferson, Hollands said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

The rose garden event was in a series of recognitions for veterans that started Saturday with a downtown parade.


Contact Tish Butts at tbutts@vicksburgpost.com