Fairbanks purple heart recipient honored with trip to West Point

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Purple Heart recipients from across the country were taken on an all-expenses paid trip to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor. The inaugural Purple Heart Patriot Project Mission #1 was put on by the National Purple Heart Honor Mission, to bring recipients to see historic sites connected with the Purple Heart and feel the appreciation of the country for their service.

Brad Bunnell, outreach coordinator at the Fairbanks Vet Center got to represent Alaska on the trip and said it was a phenomenal experience. Bunnell (left) is pictured here with Medal of Honor recipient Paul Bucha. (Photo Courtesy of the National Purple Heart Honor Mission)

"I think it's important that if you've been awarded that medal that you get your place of honor in the national hall, which has been specifically built to honor those who have received the Purple Heart,” said Russ Vernon, vice chairman with the National Purple Heart Honor Mission.

The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is located north of West Point, New York, near the site where George Washington awarded the first Badge for Meritorious Service in 1782. The Purple Heart Patriot Project is another outreach and awareness program from the National Purple Heart Mission, to register more Purple Heart recipients and connect them with each other and the history of the award.

Brad Bunnell, outreach coordinator at the Fairbanks Vet Center got to represent Alaska on the trip and said it was a phenomenal experience. "The flight over, the welcoming, I flew into LaGuardia, I've never flown into LaGuardia before, the driver came up and said 'Mr. Bunnell from Alaska?' and I said 'yup that's me' and it was first class all the way," said Bunnell.

Thirty-three out of the fifty states were represented and Bunnell says although the majority of participants were from the Vietnam era, those veterans made the younger generation feel included.

"They took us in, there was only maybe 4 or 5 of us, just a small percentage of the younger generation, and I met them, and they were telling stories, they were in the jungles, I was in the deserts. We all just got together, we're all Purple Heart recipients, we're kind of like family," said Bunnell.

Bunnell says when he received his purple heart, it happened fast and he just woke up and it was there.

"We're a small crowd, we're coveted, you're combat wounded, you get a purple heart, it's not like an end of deployment award or an 'atta boy award, you had to shed some blood, maybe lose a limb, lose your life sometimes to receive the purple heart," said Bunnell.

This was the first “mission” and they plan to continue the trip annually.

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