Six Beaufort County military veterans who served in the Vietnam War attended Tuesday's Purple Heart recognition ceremony at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island:
Glenn Blackburn of Dataw Island, Army Paul Sweet of Beaufort, Army Rich Roszelle of Bluffton, Marine Corps Ruben Cedeno of Beaufort, Marine Corps Tom Lane of Beaufort, Navy Tom Latendresse of Okatie, Navy For Beaufort resident Ruben Cedeno, a ceremony Tuesday on Parris Island to honor Purple Heart recipients fell one day after an important anniversary. Cedeno, a retired Marine, said Monday marked 46 years to the day since he was wounded in what would become his third Purple Heart commendation.
On Tuesday, he was one of six local military veterans present for a ceremony at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island honoring recipients of the Purple Heart. All six veterans served in the Vietnam War and are members of the Col. Jimmie Leach Memorial Chapter of the Lowcountry. Leach served under Gen. George Patton and retired to Beaufort before his death in 2009.
Cedeno received four Purple Hearts between March and September 1967 while deployed to Khe Sanh in Vietnam.
Cedeno and the chapter's current commander, Army veteran Paul Sweet, said the memories of getting wounded in action and receiving the recognition are still vivid, decades later.
Sweet remembered the exact date he was wounded: June 5, 1969.
"It's a date I'll never forget," he said.
The ceremony, held at the Purple Heart Monument in front of the base's parade deck, was part of the state's Purple Heart Recognition Week.
Sunday was the nationwide Purple Heart Appreciation Day, recognizing the 231st anniversary of the award.
The honor originally was awarded in 1782 by George Washington as the Badge of Military Merit. The badge was not awarded again after the Revolutionary War. In 1932, it was reinstituted by the War Department as the Purple Heart Award, with the badge redesigned from a plain purple heart to one featuring Washington's likeness. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who commissioned the new design of the medal, received the first Purple Heart.
Col. Daniel Haas, commander of the Recruit Training Regiment at Parris Island, and Beaufort City Councilwoman Donnie Beer both spoke during Tuesday's short ceremony.
Haas said the veterans were "an inspiration to our recruits," while Beer called them "the epitome of what this country is all about."
The ceremony brought back memories of Parris Island for Cedeno. He underwent basic training on the base in 1965 and served as a drill instructor for two separate stints, in the 1970s and 1980s.
While the base's look has changed and basic training has been lengthened since Cedeno's service, he didn't see much difference.
"The layout has changed, but the Marines haven't," he said. "They're still taught the same values I was."
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