AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Recipients of the distinguished Purple Heart award are a group of people who did not elect to to come together yet are still thankful for the shared experience.
The Purple Heart can be awarded to all branches of the Armed Forces, but its designation comes at the highest price. Awarded only in the name of the President of the United States, the decoration is reserved for those injured or killed while serving in the military.
Retired Chief Warrant Officer Ron Clark has been a member of Chapter 553 of the Order of the Military of the Purple Heart for many years. He says he enjoys the comradery and serving fellow veterans.
"We set up chairs, volunteer when we have speakers, we take out donations and go out to the VA and the nursing home for the VA and give the guys Christmas presents," he said.
Clark was in a helicopter that crashed into the Mekong River. He was able to free himself from the helicopter, but the aircraft commander was still inside, unconscious. Clark returned and pulled him from the burning aircraft.
"We are quiet," he said. "We are military veterans, I don't want to call it an elite group. It's something we didn't want to join, we were just at the right place at the wrong time."
The new education center will be a major teaching unit for students and families to see their grandparents and great grandparents and in a virtual reality learning gallery .
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"I am getting to be 70-years-old," said Clark. "The World War II guys are passing away. It won't be long for the Vietnam and the Korean guys. (The War Memorial) is a place to bring your family - the kids - and explain about the center."
Clark believes the center will help how people see veterans and will help bring education and a better understanding.
"85-to-90 percent of the time I wear my Purple Heart hat, people come up to you and say thank you and thank you for your service. They may want to buy your dinner, that has changed a lot," Clark said. "That's a great feeling."
How to donate to the Texas Panhandle War Memorial Education Center:
Call toll-free (806) 322-TPWM (8796) or (833) 855-8796. | Donate securely online
By mail to the Texas Panhandle War Memorial in care of the Amarillo Area Foundation at 801 South Fillmore, Suite 800 in Amarillo, Texas 79101
For more information about the education center, call (806) 376-4521