Purple Heart recipients tell their tales, recognized for courage
MCB Camp Pendleton
Story by Lance Cpl. Patrick J. Floto

VISTA, Calif. (Nov.. 22, 2005) -- The local San Giorgio Lucano Ristorante, known for it’s regular patrons of active duty Marines from Camp Pendleton and salty veterans from the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars club just down the street, was host to a night of sea stories told by Purple Heart recipients of all ages who have fought in every war from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Aside from the approximately 30 Marines and sailors and their families, a California Congressman and a former San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl winner attended the event.

“It’s really simple what we’re doing. We want to honor our wounded warriors every opportunity we get,” said Congressman Don McKiney (R-CA). “Certainly those who have been wounded deserve our respect and admiration, and we want to let them know that.”

As McKiney handed out Certificates of Special Congressional Recognition to the Purple Heart recipients to recognize their dedicated service to their nation, he added that he felt privileged to eat with the heroes.

Jim Marabotto, former tight end for the San Francisco 49ers, proudly spoke with the veterans as they recalled their experiences.

“I got to meet President Reagan at the White House after winning the ’81 Super Bowl against Cincinnati, but that was nothing compared to this,” Marabotto said. “I’ve gotten so much out of this night, I can’t tell you what this means to meet these guys. This Truly is a highlight of my life.”

Former Brig. Gen. L. R. Seamon, a three-time Purple Heart recipient and veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, had the most tales to share with the civilian supporters and the younger servicemembers.

“I sympathize with these guys because I am a Purple Heart recipient myself, and I know what it’s like to get hurt,” said Seamon. “But I also know how to get through it and go on with my career and my life. I want to encourage each and every one of these wounded warriors not to be down and out, but convince them that there is in fact a future for them.”

Seamon, more than 80 years old and retired for 14 years, still visits wounded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan three times a month at hospitals.

After the saltiest of the veterans stepped down, the younger told their more recent sea stories.

“My father was a Marine Raider during World War II. I know the kind of courage it takes for these guys to do what they do, so we should all take care of them,” said Greg Schull, a regular at the restaurant who almost always picks up the tabs of veterans such as 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Chris L. Little.

Little, a rifleman with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, took shrapnel after a mortar landed by his roving patrol in Ramadi.

“It’s awesome what the community out here will do for you,” said the Emporia, Kan., native. “The communities outside (military bases) are usually the only ones that hear about everything we have done for our country. I just wish more people around the country could hear about the good things we have done.”