National Purple Heart Day
Each year on this day, August 7, we pause to reflect on the sacrifice of our brave military men and women. Today marks the creation of the Purple Heart medal, established 238 years ago in recognition of our military heroes wounded or killed in action against enemy forces.
More than 1.8 million Americans have received the Purple Heart since 1782. And many thousands of them call the Lone Star State home. Today on National Purple Heart Day, we’ll take a quick look at three of those heroes.
Robert Lewis Howard
While not a Lone-Star-State native, U.S. Army Col. Robert Lewis Howard was a long-standing Waco resident in his retirement from the service.
Born in Alabama in 1939, Howard enlisted in the Army in 1956, distinguishing himself as a soldier in the jungles of Vietnam. While there, he served with the 327th Airborne Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, the 5th Special Forces Group and the secretive Military Assistance Command, Vietnam-Studies and Observation Group. During a 54-month period in Vietnam, he was wounded 14 times and received eight Purple Hearts. On multiple occasions under enemy attack—sometimes already wounded—Howard charged forward to save the day. In one 13-month period, he was recommended for three Medal of Honor awards—one was downgraded to a Distinguished Service Cross and another to a Silver Star.
Additionally, to name but a few, Howard earned four Legion of Merit awards, four Bronze Stars, a Defense Superior Service medal, three Meritorious Service medals, three Air medals, seven Army Commendations and a Joint Service Commendation.
In the 1970s, Howard served as an Army Ranger and special forces trainer. He retired in 1992 and spent his later years working with veterans and even traveled to Iraq to visit troops. Many historians believe Howard to be the most-decorated U.S. soldier since WWII. He died in 2009 at age 70 in Waco.
George Lawson Keene
Born in Crockett in 1898, U.S. Army Lt. Col. George Lawson Keene is considered by some to be the most-highly decorated soldier of WWI. He enlisted in the Army in 1917, shortly after high school, and was assigned to Company K, Twenty-eighth Infantry not long after the U.S. declared war on Germany.
Keene first encountered battle on the front lines in France, where he quickly moved up in rank as he distinguished himself as a brave leader. In a five-month period fighting in the trenches, her earned two Silver Stars, the Distinguished Service Cross, a Purple Heart and multiple foreign citations from France, Britain and Italy, as well as numerous unit and division citations. At the end of one especially intense round of fighting, Keene’s commanding officer described him as a “born leader of men” whose actions on that day helped capture six machine guns and 40 enemies.
Disabled by the end of the war due to his wounds, Keene returned to Texas where he took up work as a jeweler and watchmaker. He married and was active in his community and in helping veterans. He died at the VA Hospital in Houston in 1956.
Born in Bastrop in 1929, U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. William Waugh served for more than 50 years as a Green Beret and in the CIA’s Special Activities Division.
Waugh enlisted in 1948, where he was first assigned to the 187th Airborne in Korea, though he soon began special forces training shortly after the end of the war. He became a Green Beret in 1954 and was later deployed as part of a special forces “A Team” as conflict grew in Vietnam.
In 1965, he was part of a commando raid on the North Vietnamese Army near Bong Son that nearly killed him. He received multiple wounds to his head and legs and spent months recuperating in the hospital. In 1966, he returned to duty with the 5th Special Forces Group, where he also worked alongside the CIA. He retired from the Army in 1972 and again took up with the CIA a few years later. Throughout the late 1970s, 80s and 90s, Waugh worked on a number of covert operations helping to ensure the security of our country. He later wrote a memoir called “Hunting the Jackal: A Special Forces and CIA Soldier’s Fifty Years on the Frontlines of the War Against Terrorism.”
At the age of 71, Waugh traveled to Afghanistan with the CIA to help topple the Taliban and Al Qaeda. In his military career, he earned a Purple Heart, eight Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star, an Air medal and an Army Commendation medal, just to name a few.
At Veteran Energy, we’re thankful every day to the brave men and women who help keep this country safe. Thank you for your sacrifice.