Updated 05/28/2012 06:53 PM
Purple Hearts bestowed on the award's 80th anniversary
The courageous acts of two service members were honored this Memorial Day. Purple Hearts awarded to the men who answered the call of duty and narrowly escaped death. YNN's Elaina Athans has more.
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NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. -- “You don’t really want to join the club, but once you’re there, it’s a very exclusive club of men and women," said Purple Heart recipient Sgt. Ernest Martinez.
On a day dedicated to remembering our fallen heroes, two men are honored at a Memorial Day service.
Purple Heart medals were bestowed on the veterans. The award is one of the United States military's highest honors. It's given to those wounded or killed by enemy combat.
Martinez received his medal after being injured in the Vietnam War. A Purple Heart was also given to Sgt. Richard Gerbeth, who was wounded during an Iraqi raid.
"We turned to run and it was the mortars already started landed and one landed right between us and knocked me out," said Purple Heart recipient Sgt. Richard Gerbeth.
For both of these recipients, the award ceremony holds even more meaning as the modern day Purple Heart marks a milestone on this Memorial Day. It's been 80 years since the first was handed out. Since 1932, at least 1.7 million service members have received the Purple Heart.
"The people who go are volunteers. Nobody asks to be killed or wounded, of course, and we must remember they did not have to go. And all of us are beneficiaries of their service," said Peter Bedrossian from the Purple Heart Hall of Honor.
“Getting the Purple Heart, getting the Silver Star isn’t much about me getting it or be getting recognized. Especially on Memorial Day, it’s about the guys that I fought with that didn’t make it back home. It’s about the guys that didn’t get recognized," said Martinez.