Wall of Heroes

If you would like your family member or friend that has been the recipient of a Purple Heart,
we invite you to share your story.

Col. (Ret) Ben Skardon

South Carolina’s Clemson University alumnus and professor emeritus Col. (Ret) Ben Skardon was featured on the news program “60 Minutes” on May 28th to celebrate his 100th birthday.

Skardon was the commander of Company A of the 93nd Infantry Regiment PA (Philippine Army). A battalion of Filipino army recruits on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. He led his troops through some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting of the war, earning two Silver Stars and three Bronze Stars for valor in combat, as well as a Purple Heart during the first four months of the war – an incredible array of awards for any one soldier.

On Apr 9th, 1942, he became a prisoner of war with tens of thousands of his brothers-in-arms when American troops in that area of operation were forced to surrender to the Japanese. Skardon and his fellow POWs were marched 80 miles north by their captors in one of the most notorious war crimes in history: The Bataan Death March.

Ben drank his bottle of Purple Heart on his 100th birthday on July 14th.

Mike Toma

I was a Marine stationed in Beirut, Lebanon, for my 2nd tour with the Multinational Peacekeeping Force. On October 23, 1983, a terrorist drove a truck containing the equivalent of 10,000 pounds of TNT into our four-story HQ building, leveling it. Killed were 220 Marines, 18 Sailors and 3 Soldiers. I was asleep on the first floor of the barracks at the time not far from the blast origin. Fortunately for me, the 2nd floor just above me did not collapse leaving a pocket around me. I was extricated from the rubble within an hour and flown to a ship offshore for triage then to Germany on the first hospital plane out of country. I spent time there and at Bethesda Naval Hospital, Maryland, recovering from my wounds. The Purple Heart Medal was awarded to me in a ceremony on November 10, 1983 at Bethesda Naval Hospital by Brigadier General Paul Slack.

John A Vargas

John was born in San Juan Puerto Rico, USA and was raised in NYC. He was “Drafted” into the US Army and assigned to the 4th Infantry Division at Ft. Lewis Washington. While serving in Vietnam he voluntary transferred to the 25th Division ¾ Air Cavalry “Centaurs.”

On the 19th of May 1967, while on a mission in the Hobo Woods, South Vietnam, John was seriously injured sustaining bullet wounds to his right shoulder. In spite of his wounds, he continued to engage the enemy with M60 tracers while marking their position with smoke. Subsequently, he saved the other three-crew members while assisting to kill at 17 VC. For his bravery and dedication to duty, along with the Purple Heart, John was awarded The Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal for Valor. He is one of a few in the Army to have received the DFC, which is usually awarded to an Air Force pilot.
John was a volunteer with the Colorado Police Department for 10 years working with the Senior Victims Assistant Team and as Tour Director. John was a member of the Chamber of Commerce and served on the Hispanic Advisory Council of the El Pomar Foundation.

Currently he is a member of the Highlands Ranch American Legion, the Vietnam Veteran’s of America in Centennial, and the Danny Dietz, Purple Heart Chapter in Arvada Colorado and remains a member of the VFW in the Springs.

James H. Overstreet

My father was LCDR James H. Overstreet, the Mission Commander of the EC-121 shot down by North Korea in 1969. Each year since, members of the reconnaissance and intelligence community in Japan commemorate this event on 15 April. The ceremonies were small and informal at first, but grew and became more formal over the years. I was fortunate to travel to Japan my last year in the Navy and attend the 45th commemoration. Wine was not a big part of our culture in Mississippi in the 60's, but my parents were familiar with Mateus, Lancers, Chianti and Lambrusco via their Navy experience. My father was only 34 when he gave the ultimate sacrifice. I'm sure he would have eventually discovered finer wines, however he probably would have still paired them with fried catfish, steamed crabs and shrimp gumbo. Thank you for your tribute and I look forward to trying Purple Heart.

Rodman Edward “Rod” Serling

Rodman Edward "Rod" Serling of The Twilight Zone was awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and the Philippine Liberation Medal for his heroic service in the Pacific theater during WWII. He served bravely in a platoon known for suffering heavy casualties from dangerous assignments – a platoon nicknamed “the death squad.”


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