Representing states across America, 2023 National Purple Heart heroes have been selected for a multi-day tribute to service and sacrifice.
They represent the very best of our nation, having put their lives on the line for America and the freedoms we all cherish. Now, they’re getting the trip of a lifetime to say “thank you.” Purple Heart heroes representing states across our nation have been selected for the 2023 Purple Heart Patriot Project.
Selected for their courage and service, both during combat operations and in the years since returning home, this salute to service will bring together Purple Heart recipients from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Global War on Terror and other conflicts.
This year’s Patriot Project honorees include both men and women, all branches of the service and range in age from 37 to 100.
Among the honorees is James Battles of Oklahoma, who participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Across generations, Purple Heart recipients have answered the nation’s call and their sacrifices have kept us free. This is our opportunity to say ‘thank you’ on behalf of a grateful nation. Especially for our Vietnam veterans, the Patriot Project offers them the homecoming they never received. These missions help recognize the sacrifices made by our Purple Heart recipients – those who came home and those who didn’t – and ensure their stories are told to future generations,” said Purple Heart recipient Richard Lay, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Purple Heart Honor Mission.
“Our 2023 Purple Heart Patriot Project honorees represent a true cross-section of America and the diversity of our combat wounded through the decades,” said National Purple Heart Honor Mission Executive Director Russell Vernon (Col., NYARNG – Ret). “We received numerous nominations of deserving individuals, and this group is truly representative of Purple Heart recipients who served our nation and continue to serve their communities. We are tremendously proud to recognize all that they have done, both during their service careers and in their civilian lives.”
Among this year’s distinguished honorees is U.S. Army veteran Robert Senter, who received two Purple Hearts while serving in the European Theatre during World War II.
Also being recognized is Kansas’ James Freel, who served as a Corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. Freel was among the first of 70,000 Marines who in February 1945 invaded the Japanese-held Pacific island of Iwo Jima. He was struck by shrapnel in the neck later that same day. After returning to Topeka, Freel spent 26 years with the Topeka Police Department, including serving as chief from 1973 until he retired in 1975. Freel, who passed away earlier this year just days after his 100th birthday, will be honored in memoriam.
Another honoree is George Stavropoulos of Indiana, a Navy hospital corpsman attached to the 1st battalion 9th Marines in Vietnam in 1967. During heavy fighting Stavropoulos continued to provide medical care to other soldiers despite his own wounds. He was awarded a Silver Star for valor and his second, third and fourth Purple Hearts. Stavropoulos went on to serve as a policeman and private investigator.
Past Purple Heart recipients who have participated in Patriot Project have been moved by the outpouring of gratitude from the public and the immediate sense of camaraderie they felt with their fellow honorees.
Video footage from past Patriot Project missions and interviews with previously selected honorees can be found at: http://bit.ly/ PHHonorMissionVideos.
The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is operated by the New York-New Jersey Palisades Interstate Park Commission. The National Purple Heart Honor Mission is an approved 501(c)3 national charitable organization that provides a range of tribute programming to honor our Purple Heart heroes and preserve their legacy.