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The Military Order of the Purple Heart

For Immediate Release

Springfield, VA - January 30, 2011


In December, members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart across the country proved their motto of “Veterans Helping Veterans.”  While it is not possible to relate each and every story, those depicted herein provide a small example of what is repeated in almost every state by selfless, dedicated members.


Through the MOPH Veteran Affairs Volunteer Service program, MOPH members visited all four of the VA Polytrauma Centers to distribute special stockings to each of the recovering wounded warriors.  In addition to normal toiletries, books, and other individual items tailored to soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines, each patient received an IPod for their personal use while undergoing intensive rehabilitation.


National VAVS Director Del Turner prepares stockings

Ron Manjarrez, Specialist Orlando Gonzalez, US Army, and Doc Lutes at Palo Alto VAMC

SSGT Chavez, NSO Anthony Gayles and LCPL Satterwhite Present stocking to David Noblit at Richmond VAMC

Mark Browne and GSGT Young present stocking to Neal Claar at Minneapolis VAMC

John Bircher presents stocking to PFC Michael Salerno and father Nicholas at Tampa VAMC

SSGT Chavez, NSO Anthony Gayles and LCPL Satterwhite 

with Paul Starner at Richmond VAMC


In Ramstein, Germany, while most Americans were cozy at home and ripping the paper from their presents, Patriot Joseph "Snake" Balanovich, Commander of MOPH Department of Mississippi, spent his time acting as Santa for the wounded soldiers at the Ramstein Air Base hospital.  On Dec 23, Balanovich boarded the "Spirit of the Purple Heart," one of the 172nd Air Wing’s  C-17A aircraft, and flew from the National Guard Air Base in Jackson, MS, to Andrews AFB, MD. There they picked up medical personnel who would assist the 23 wounded warriors on the trip home from Germany.  While at Ramstein, Patriot Balanovich visited with patients and helped the chaplain and base leadership bring cheer to those restricted to the hospital for the holidays, providing each with pre-paid phone cards so they could call home.  On the day after Christmas, Patriot Balanovich, the wounded service members, the medical staff and the C-17 crew returned to Andrews AFB, where the patients were transferred to either Walter Reed Hospital or Bethesda Naval Medical Center.  Patriot Balanovich recalled, "As I was preparing to depart the plane, one of the surgeons told me that a triple amputee wanted to talk to me," he said, "I leaned my ear next to his mouth because he had tubes coming from his nose and mouth and he said, ‘Thank you for coming and seeing me home. When I get up and around, will you come and visit me?'  I gave him my card and told him to call day or night and I would arrange to come."

Patriot Joe “Snake” in the snow at Ramstein AFB

Wounded Warriors onboard C-17 enroute to Andrews AFB


In North Caroline, the “Home for the Holidays” program ensures that money is not the factor that keeps wounded service men and women from traveling home to be with their families during the holidays.  Jim Casti, MOPH National Welfare Officer, says, “This is one of the greatest things I ever do.” On a visit to Camp Lejeune six years ago Patriot Casti asked one of the wounded warriors what he wanted for Christmas.  The man told him he wanted to go home, but didn't have the money.“   Since then, Casti and the Members of the Department of North Carolina have made it their goal to ensure that all recovering service members in the state can be home for the holidays.  Although it takes hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to pay for the plane tickets or gas money, this year the MOPH was able to make it possible for more than  .  300 service members from Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg to head home for the holidays.  For many, it will be the first opportunity to go home after being wounded.   “It makes me feel appreciated for what we sacrifice,” said Lance Corporal Ross Irwin as he received a check from Patriot Casti.  “The gratitude that we see on these young Marines and Corpsman’s faces, are satisfaction enough for us,” Purple Heart Member Verl Matthews observed.  “There's no catch, no cost, we just want them to get home, no matter how they get there.”

Nicholas Wickiser, Shane Hafner and Kevin Campbell, Marines at Camp Lejeune,

Receive checks from Jim Casti and Veri Matthews of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.


The organization now known as the "Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A. Inc.," (MOPH) was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all who have received the decoration. Chartered by the Congress, The MOPH is unique among Veteran Service Organizations in that all its members were wounded in combat. For this sacrifice, they were awarded the Purple Heart Medal. With grants from the MOPH Service Foundation, the MOPH and its Ladies Auxiliary promote Patriotism, Fraternalism, and the Preservation of America's military history. Most importantly, they provide comfort and assistance to all Veterans and their families, especially those requiring claims assistance with the VA, those who are homeless, and those requiring employment assistanceThrough the VAVS program, MOPH volunteers provide assistance to hospitalized veterans at VA sites and State Veterans Homes.


For information contact:
National Public Relations Director, John Bircher, 352-753-5535
Email: PublicRelations@Purpleheart.org
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