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American Legion honors Purple Heart heroes at Texas post

By MATT SMITH | Cleburne Times-Review, Texas | Published: August 10, 2017

CLEBURNE, Texas (Tribune News Service) — More than 30 gathered Monday at Cleburne American Legion Post 50 to visit with and pay tribute to those who, in the words of Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain, paid the extra measure with their bodies and their lives in service to America.

Cain proclaimed Cleburne a Purple Heart city and Aug. 7 as Purple Heart Day in Cleburne before personally thanking the seven Purple Heart recipients in attendance.

“I always tell my two boys, ‘When you see a vet, stop and thank them for their service, for all they’ve done for us and for their friends who didn’t come home,’” Cain said.

This, Past State President of the American Legion Auxiliary Marty Peters said, marks the third year the Legion and members of Burleson Chapter 1867 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart have honored local Purple Heart recipients at the Cleburne post.

“These are our true heroes,” Peters said when asked to sum up the importance of the event. “It’s important we realize that and recognize them. While some fought in wars decades ago, we have many coming home every day who live in Johnson County.”

Jonathan Laureles, founder and commander of the Cleburne VFW, thanked the veterans for their service and the people of Cleburne and Johnson County for their support of veterans and service men and women.

“I encourage everyone to take time to shake their hands and hear their stories,” Laureles said. “To [the recipients], know that the VFW is always here for you.”

Lorin Storey, commander of Burleson’s Military Order of the Purple Heart, said it’s important to recognize Purple Heart recipients as well as all veterans and current military to promote patriotism, never forget, and foster support and fellowship between them and the community at large.

A U.S. Army veteran of the 101st Airborne, Storey served in Vietnam from 1967-68 during the Tet Offensive.

George Damiano, 93, served in the Army during the Korean War.

Michael Lamp served 10 years in the Army, retiring as a staff sergeant in 2015.

After enduring being shelled for seven days in Afghanistan, Lamp was injured by an incoming rocket after which he spent two to three weeks in “La-La Land.”

“But no one else was hurt,” Lamp said. “The others around me were fine, so that’s a good thing. I went in with all my soldiers and brought all my soldiers home. I love to see the support people have for the military. For me though, when people thank me, I’m grateful, but I tell them it was nothing. I just went and did what I signed up for.”

Army veteran Scott Manning served in Vietnam from 1967-70 as an executive officer on an advisory team working with the South Vietnamese. Those soldiers, oddly enough, took their families along to war, Manning said.

An encounter with a booby trap along the perimeter earned Manning his Purple Heart and more than 230 stitches.
U.S. Army and Marines veteran Charles Bolt served from 1957-78.

“It’s better now than it was then and good to see the veterans coming out now getting more respect,” Bolt said. “When I got out that was still the time when you got out of your uniform and into civilian clothes so you wouldn’t be bothered.”

U.S. Army veteran Benny Torres, who served in Vietnam, concurred.

“I was put in a position where my country needed me and it was my duty,” Torres said. “But when I got out I put it behind me and didn’t talk about it. It was in the back of my mind you know. But usually I didn’t think about it and most people other than my family and a few friends didn’t know I’d even been in the military. I made a lot of good friends over there.

Lost a lot of them. Put things behind me after I got out and never saw them again after my service. It wasn’t until years later that I started to get involved with the VA and things like that and got to a point where I could say, ‘I served and this is what I did.’”

Drafted July 4, 1967, at the age of 19, Torres and his company were among the last to travel to Vietnam by ship.

“Yeah, 23 days on a ship,” Torres said. “After a while we were almost anxious to get there just to get off that ship. But I got there and, three days later, I was assigned to a field unit in the 25th Infantry.

On Aug. 15, 1967, while patrolling at night, a piece of shrapnel struck Torres in the back of the head sending him to a base camp field hospital.

“Three or four days later they figured I was OK and sent me back out in the field with a big bandage on my head,” Torres said. “I just thought, ‘Well, OK.’”

Torres didn’t receive a Purple Heart for that injury.

“They classified that as friendly fire so it didn’t count,” Torres said.

Vietnam otherwise, as the Led Zeppelin song goes, proved a case of good times, bad times, Torres said.

“A lot of talk about getting back to girls and what kind of cars we were going to buy when we got home,” Torres said. “It was all right some days. We got into some stuff other days. Scared describes it well. But it’s a more stressful feeling really. Just that constant sense of danger, fear, seeing things happen that most people never see and don’t want to see. I mean we were trained and all. But there’s training and there’s when it’s for real, and that’s different.”

On Oct. 2, 1967, while on patrol, Torres suffered injuries to his legs, arms and face after tripping on a booby trap mine.

“That did it for me,” Torres said. “I was sent to Japan for three or four weeks then sent home and finished out at Fort Hood. I remember thinking, cause the war was still going on, being fearful they might send me back. If they did I was going to sign up to be in the tanks. But I was more fortunate than a lot of them, fortunate enough to be able to make it back home.”

©2017 the Cleburne Times-Review (Cleburne, Texas)
Visit the Cleburne Times-Review at www.cleburnetimesreview.com
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A Purple Heart medal.
TNS FILE PHOTO

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