Plano honors its fallen heroes: West grad receives Purple Heart at Memorial Day service
Photo courtesy of Oladipo Awowale:
David Cody Morton, left, receives the Purple Heart Award Monday night from U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson.
The names of 42 service members were read aloud Monday night at Memorial Park, honoring the men from Plano who were killed while serving their country.
The names range from Pvt. Joseph Byler, who died in 1918 after serving in France in World War I, to Staff Sgt. Eric Duckworth, who was killed in Iraq in 2007. The average age of the men listed on the wall is 23, a number that when announced, drew an audible gasp from some members of the audience.
Family members of several of the men listed on the wall were present and took place in the ceremony, including Jazak and Skye Trovillion, whose older brother was killed in 2005 at the age of 23 by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
"I know very well that freedom is not free," Jazak Trovillion told the hundreds of people gathered in the park. "My brother, Marine Cpl. Tyler Seth Trovillion, is on this wall. Like Tyler, they gave their lives so we could enjoy freedom and opportunity. I hope each one of us will leave this evening with a renewed dedication to the United States of America -- land of the free and home of the brave."
One of the dignitaries at the service was U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, a 29-year veteran of the Air Force who flew combat missions over Korea and Vietnam, and was held a prisoner of war for seven years during the Vietnam War. Johnson, who also spoke at a ceremony in McKinney earlier in the day, said today is a day for all Americans to remember the cost of freedom.
"On this Memorial Day, families and communities across the country gather together to express their gratitude for service and sacrifice of the men and women in our armed forces," Johnson said. "We offer prayers of protection for those in harm's way and prayers of comfort for our hero's families here at home. With deepest reverence, we remember those who gave the last full measure of devotion on the field of battle in defense of their country and in support of our nation's greatest gift, freedom."
Johnson was also on hand to present the Purple Heart Award to Navy Corpsman David Cody Morton, a 2004 Plano West graduate. Morton was injured in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device in 2008. While he suffered a brain injury, burns and shrapnel wounds, he recovered and returned to his unit. Two months later, however, the Humvee he was riding in rolled over, injuring Morton and leading to him being medically discharged.
Morton said after being discharged, he attempted to turn in all of the required paperwork needed to receive the Purple Heart, but kept running into small problems such as checking the wrong box or using the wrong form. He then reached out to Johnson's office, which helped speed up the process and resulted in Morton being presented the award Monday evening.
"I think this award is a testament to the American spirit," Morton said. "I think the award says that you don't give up. You don't give up on your deployment and you don't give up on the guys. It is about the guy next to you, not about you. This is the oldest military honor, so I think it is keeping in line with the great tradition all the way back to the Revolutionary War."
During his stint in Afghanistan, Morton was attached to a unit made up of Marine and Army personnel responsible for gathering intelligence. While deployed, he treated 16 wounded soldiers, and served as his unit's communications expert. He said Memorial Day has a special meaning for him since his friend and mentor was killed in action in November 2005.
"It is not about the people who are home, it is about the ones who didn't come home," said Morton, who recently graduated from SMU and plans to attend law school. "I don't want their names to be forgotten. There are stories behind everyone who got killed. I wear this band to always remember D.J. because I don't want him to be forgotten."
Morton said when he was a 19-year-old junior non-commissioned officer who admittedly didn't really know what he was doing, D.J was the first person he met with his new platoon. He said D.J. helped him learn the ropes and fit in with a group of men who had already been deployed to Iraq, and who were less than welcoming to the "new guy."
"He helped me so that when I was sent to Afghanistan, I was rolling," Morton said. "I knew how to work the radios and clean every weapon. When I think of him, that is what I think Memorial Day means."