3 soldiers presented Purple Hearts at Washington’s Mt. Vernon

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Kicking off a week of events for the Army’s 240th birthday, Army Secretary John M. McHugh laid a wreath at the tomb of George Washington, and honored the men and women who selflessly serve to protect the nation.

As part of the events at the Mount Vernon estate, June 9, McHugh presented Purple Hearts to three soldiers – Spcs. Marcelino Biz, Clay Casteel, and Spencer Jacobsen.

The Army’s birthday, June 14, marks the day in 1775 when the Continental Congress approved the establishment of an army. Washington, in addition to being the nation’s first president, was the first commander in chief of the Continental Army.

It was fitting, McHugh said, that events kicking off the birthday week be held at Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, since the statesman was so intricately tied to the history of the Army and the nation.

"We’re here today, honored to have the opportunity to reflect upon the very first bestowing of what later became the Purple Heart by Gen. George Washington himself, when he presented his medal to three enlisted soldiers," McHugh said.

"For more than 240 years, America has counted on her Army and its volunteer soldiers to sustain our liberties and protect our interests both here and abroad," he added.

"From the American Revolution, so long ago, to the more recent fields of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, brave individuals have stepped forward to defend our nation and our freedom with unmatched competence and character," he said.

In addition, McHugh remarked that Mount Vernon marks the beginning of the Purple Heart Trail, a series of roadways and trails throughout the 50 states that pay tribute to the men and women, who have been awarded the Purple Heart.

Purple Heart presentation

Biz, Casteel, and Jacobsen are members of the 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky. They were injured April 8, 2015, during an attack in Afghanistan.

"I had a chance in one of my regular visits to Walter Reed to visit these three great Americans," McHugh said.

"They are, as soldiers have always been, incredible examples of bravery, of selfless sacrifice."

Soldiers make enormous sacrifices, to include their lives, in service to the nation, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey said.

"Our great soldiers are our nation’s credentials," Dailey said. "When our nation asks us to go to war, it’s a serious thing."

The service of Biz, Casteel, Jacobsen and so many others like them, is what makes the nation strong, he said.

"They will be honored and remembered by us forever because what they do every day is so special and so sacred to the people of the United States of America," Dailey said.

Jacobsen, who was injured by a gunshot wound, which resulted in a broken leg, has been in the Army for more than two years.

It was a memorable experience, he said, to be presented his Purple Heart at Mount Vernon.

"It was pretty neat; it was a cool experience to be here and receive it here, instead of in the hospital," he said. "You can’t put words on it because it’s just so special."