On Saturday, May 26, members of the Pat Cleburne Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart will gather to place wreaths at cemeteries around Johnson County, commemorating the sacrifice of the fallen men and women of our armed forces.
The ceremonies will begin simultaneously at 10 a.m. at the cemeteries in Alvarado, Burleson, Cleburne, Godley, Grandview, Rio Vista and Venus.
“Every Memorial Day weekend, the members of the chapter either go out and place wreaths or they plant flags at the different headstone locations of veterans,” chapter commander Larry Elwell said.
The members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart are all veterans who were either wounded in combat with enemy forces or held by an enemy as a prisoner of war.
Chapter members earned their Purple Hearts - an award based upon a medal first awarded to soldiers by George Washington in 1782, and which assumed its present form in 1932 - on battlefields around the world, including Italy, Germany, France, Okinawa, Korea, Vietnam and Guam, where they were wounded by mortars, machine-guns, snipers, land-mines, grenades and aircraft.
One of the chapter’s members was wounded during a Japanese kamikaze attack. Another was shot during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir.
Elwell, a former rifleman and machine gunner in the 1st Marine Division’s 7th Regiment, was “a foolish young reservist who wanted to have a great adventure,” he recalls. “And when the North Koreans came across the 38th parallel, President Truman decided to activate the reserves.”
Elwell was with the 2/7 when China entered the war, engaging American forces at the Chosin Reservoir, sometimes called “the Frozen Chosin” due to the frigid sub-zero temperatures.
It was at Chosin that Elwell was wounded, shot by a round that went through his arm. He was evacuated to Hawaii, where he recuperated and was then discharged.
The Korean War is sometimes called “the Forgotten War,” Elwell says, though in his opinion, that name doesn’t fit.
“It’s not forgotten,” he says. “I’ve been trying to forget it for 50 years.”
Elwell says he has been involved with the Order of the Purple Heart for about five years, helping to honor fallen veterans by laying wreaths and placing flags at their headstones, actions which will be undertaken once more this weekend, when mayors and other city officials will be on hand to assist the Order’s members in placing the wreaths at Johnson County’s cemeteries.
“I hope that the residents of Johnson County will visit the cemeteries this week and place flags and the headstones of the graves of veterans to honor their service,” chapter adjutant Bobby Ward stated.
“I think it’s really a way to honor people who have given their time, their energy, taken the risks and many times given their lives to foster freedom and preserve our American way,” Elwell added. “It’s really an honor and a privilege to pay tribute to them, and [people] should be ashamed to if they don’t honor them.”
Glenwood Cemetery is located on Parkway (Interstate 35W Business) in Alvarado; the wreath ceremony will take place at the Veteran’s Memorial.
The public is strongly encouraged to attend.