WASHINGTON - Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., on Thursday welcomed 25 World War II and Korean War veterans from Central Oregon -- and surprised one vet with the Purple Heart he earned in combat more than 60 years ago.
The group is in Washington, D.C. to visit their memorials on the National Mall as part of the latest Honor Flight of Central Oregon.
Walden greeted the veterans at the Korean War Memorial, and presented each veteran with an American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in honor of their service to America.
Walden also surprised one Korean War veteran from Bend, Don Van Cleve Jr., by presenting him with the Purple Heart that Van Cleve Jr. earned after sustaining serious injuries in combat in 1951. Walden recounted Van Cleve Jr.’s story of bravery during the Korean War before handing the 90-year-old veteran the Purple Heart, which was met with applause from Van Cleve Jr.’s fellow veterans.
“On September 29, 1951 his parents received the following telegram: 'We regret to inform you that your son Private First Class Donald Lewis Van Cleve Jr. United States Marine Corps has been wounded in action 24 September 1951 in the Korean area in the performance of his duty and service of his country. I realize your great anxiety but nature of wounds not reported and delay in receipt of details must be expected.’ Of course, that didn’t tell his whole story to his parents,” Walden told the group.
“His parents would later learn that Mr. Van Cleve was in a foxhole with other Marines when an incoming grenade exploded near his helmet -- he lost hearing in one hear and still has shrapnel in his back today. He went many years and never received this medal. It is my great honor and privilege to present Don Van Cleve his Purple Heart. Thank you for your service, Don,” the congressman said.
Walden’s office in Bend learned that Van Cleve Jr. never received his Purple Heart, and worked to secure the distinguished medal for him.
Walden said his office regularly helps the men and women who served in uniform with their casework -- whether that’s difficulty with the VA, Department of Defense, Tricare, or medal recovery. If you or a loved one need assistance, you can reach out to Walden’s office at 800-533-3303.
In addition to presenting the veterans with an American flag flown over the Capitol building, Walden entered into the Congressional Record the names of each veteran who participated in the Honor Flight of Central Oregon. Walden expressed gratitude for the veterans and their service on behalf of the entire House of Representatives.
“At the height of the Civil War in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln wrote, ‘Honor to the Soldier, and Sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country's cause.’ Each of us in this chamber and in this nation should be humbled by the courage of these brave veterans who put themselves in harm's way for our country and way of life,” Walden wrote in the Congressional Record.
“As a nation, we can never fully repay the debt of gratitude owed to them for their honor, commitment, and sacrifice in defense of the freedoms we have today. My colleagues, please join me in thanking these veterans and the volunteers of Honor Flight of Central Oregon for their exemplary dedication and service to this great country. “
The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created to honor America’s veterans. The organization transports veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials -- with priority given to World War II survivors and veterans who may be terminally ill. More than 200,000 veterans have been honored through the Honor Flight Network of volunteers since 2005.
Walden often meets with Oregon veterans who comes to Washington, D.C. as part of the Honor Flight Network, and flies flags over the U.S. Capitol in honor of each veteran participating in the Honor Flight, along with entering their names into the Congressional Record.