260 people showed up for Saturday’s unveiling of a new Purple Heart monument in front of Fresno’s V.A. Hospital.
The beautiful slab of stone is engraved with the names of 97 local servicemen who fought as recently the Iraq war and as far back as WWI.
Fresno's chapter of Military Order of the Purple Heart spent a year putting this project together.
“We had trouble raising the money at the beginning. This is paid for by veterans, for veterans. Every name on that stone was paid for by a Purple Heart recipient or his family or family friend,” said Gilbert De La Pena of Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Porterville native, Devon Mathis, became one of the names etched in the statue after being wounded while serving Iraq.
“I got hit by a roadside bomb and got knocked out a little bit,” said Devon Mathis, a Purple Heart recipient.
Mathis feels blessed to have been included in this ceremony.
“I’ve got three boys and to know they'll be able to say my old man's name is on there and one day grandchildren will see it. It's a big honor and I’m just proud to be home,” said Mathis.
The history of the Purple Heart dates back to 1782 when George Washington established it. It stands as the first medal to honor the common soldier. Today, it's considered one of the most highly respected decorations a person can receive.
“It signifies you were wounded in combat at the hands of the enemy and it's known all over the world. Bar none,” said De La Pena.