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Apart from the Medal of Honor, one of the most recognizable awards in the US Armed Forces is the Purple Heart. “For military merit and for wounds received in action,” reads the citation issued to over 1 million men and women who served during World War 2.

The core of SDN Pros are veterans, sons and daughters of vets, a community striving to support service men and women who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice for their community. On Purple Heart Day we honor the men and women who were wounded or killed while serving our country. We give special tribute to Richard Bates, our very own April‘s father, who received the Purple Heart for his service with the Army in 1969.

Like many others who received the Purple Heart Award, Richard has a special story. Enlisting with the US Army as a young lad, Richard’s journey began at Fort Meade for training and moved on to Fort Leonard Wood as a mechanic. Soon thereafter, Richard was deployed to Germany but ultimately in May 1968 was sent to Vietnam as a ‘Line Dog’ –  a combat engineer. He was to help build and restore roads and infrastructure within the country, but his company specifically was tasked with sweeping the area and roads for mines before the roads could be restored and built. They would start from the south and work north until they met another company en route coming south towards them, meaning the road and area was ‘safe’.

Richard detailed his account, “Commonly we would have a ‘far ambush’ from the mountains from the east, and would be shot at from long range. They would rarely hit us…” In May 1969, his platoon was ambushed just as they stopped to unload and get to work minesweeping. Hearing a loud bang, Richard quickly gazed to the west and caught a glimpse of the smoke trail from a rocket grenade headed straight for them. Instantly, shrapnel and debris went flying, making impact with the entire right side of Richard’s body, from foot up to his head. Luckily his flak jacket reduced much of the impact which otherwise would have been fatal. In a fraction of a moment, Richard lost 5 of the 11 men from his squad, with a further 13 men severely injured. He was attended to and most of the shrapnel was removed (yes, occasionally he still sets off metal detectors) and, miraculously, Richard was able to continue his mission.

Of course Richard’s story doesn’t end there. He continued on, giving a total of 25 years of service to the US Army. Like so many veterans, Richard lives with the effects that so many years of active service and combat can have on someone; often reliving vivid memories of trying and scary times. Check out, a non-profit founded by SDN Pros Steve Durgin (Shawn Jones and Terry Jenkins as board members), whose mission is to support Veterans and reduce veteran suicide. Another great Veteran non-profit to check out is the Purple Heart Foundation