Two central Iowa veterans were awarded Purple Heart medals on Tuesday. The honor is for service members who are wounded or killed in combat.
Don Coderre of West Des Moines served in the Army as a combat infantryman from 2004 to 2007. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Corderre was injured while clearing explosives from highways.
"We were up to like 130 (improvised explosive devices) a month in some areas. And then, all the sudden by the end of 2005 it just died down," he says. "For me personally, I was injured with a mortar that landed in front of me, didn't feel that great."
Corderre says he had applied about a dozen times for the Purple Heart medal, but because the Army kept losing his paperwork and because he needed to track down additional medical documentation, he was unsuccessful.
That changed after his former Battalion Command Sergeant Major, Daniel Dailey, was promoted to Sergeant Major of the Army. Dailey was able to verify how Corderre was wounded.
"Getting a call from SMA Dailey, that was the big breakthrough," says Corderre.
Frank Hawk of Norwalk was injured in Vietnam. He was a specialist in the Army’s Airmobile Division during the Vietnam War from 1967 to 1969. He led a squad of troops that were dropped off by helicopters, to provide assistance to fellow soldiers.
"Every time the helicopters come in, we knew we was going out to help someone else to get out of trouble. I wasted a lot of ammunition, but it was for a good cause," says Hawk. "You see things and do thing you’re not always proud of, but that’s part of war."
Both men were joined by their children, spouses and relatives during the ceremony, which was hosted by Sen. Chuck Grassley at his Des Moines office.
There is no master list of Purple Heart recipients, but it’s estimated that more than 1.8 million people have been honored with the medal.