Brave Hearts Beat Together

2015-08

BRAVE HEARTS Beat Together BY K.J. Williams PHOTOGRAPHY BY Allison Potter Bill Ebersbach recruits Purple Heart medal recipients. The former Marine sergeant asks anyone he sees wearing a veteran’s cap if he or she has a Purple Heart. His recruitment method is similar to the casual exchange that took place in a New Jersey parking lot in 1983 that led to his involvement with the Military Order of the Purple Heart. The medal is awarded for combat injuries or death as the result of enemy action or terrorism. When the veteran responds affirmatively, Ebersbach invites him or her to join the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Cape Fear Chapter 636. The order is elite. Only the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest honor, has fewer recipients than the Purple Heart. Ebersbach was recognized last year by Purple Heart Magazine for his efforts in growing the membership of the Cape Fear Chapter. He resurrected the defunct chapter in 2005, bringing eight former members back into the fold. He then recruited 64 more members. The military order is a brotherhood, Ebersbach says. “The one thing that binds us together is that little piece of gold, and purple stone,” he says. The Purple Heart medal has an image of George Washington on its heart-shaped face set in a golden bronze. The medal was first created in 1782, on Washington’s orders to honor wounds received during combat action and meritorious performance of duty, states the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Ignored for almost 150 years, it was reintroduced as an award on February 22, 1932. Since then, an estimated 1.8 million Purple Hearts have been awarded, states the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New York. An exact figure is nearly impossible to calculate, as most early Purple Hearts were not recorded and many were lost when the National Personnel Records Center caught fire in 1973. Bill Ebersbach, at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, September 1964. “We were not even allowed to call ourselves Marines at that point,” Ebersbach says. August 7 is recognized nationally as Purple Heart Day. This is a time to remember the sacrifices of those who were wounded or killed in combat. The Cape Fear region will rec-ognize Purple Heart recipients during the Second Annual Cape Fear Purple Heart Dinner on August 2 at the Wilmington Convention Center. This veterans’ kinship is strong among the members of the Cape Fear Chapter. Jon Sammis of Scotts Hill, a former Navy Hospital Corpsman Second Class, says, “There’s a bond — a very strong friendship — and it doesn’t matter what branch of service they were in. There’s a lot of comradeship.” 28 WBM august 2015 HISTORIC PHOTOS COURTESY OF MEDAL RECIPIENTS.


2015-08
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