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by: Bob Driscoll:
A local Purple Heart recipient was recently honored as one of the nation’s 2023 Purple Heart Patriot Project honorees. U.S. Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 5 Walter Schley (former resident of Harris, Missouri) represented his fellow Purple Heart heroes as Missouri’s honoree at the multi-day tribute to the courage and sacrifice of America’s combat wounded. The Purple Heart Patriot Project is a program of the National Purple Heart Honor Mission. The all-expenses-paid trip included visits to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, historic Washington’s Headquarters, a special tour of the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor and other unique tributes.
“Walter and his fellow Patriot Project honorees represent the best of the best our country has to offer,” said Richie Lay, a Purple Heart recipient and Chairman of the National Purple Heart Honor Mission. “America’s Purple Heart veterans have given so much to defend freedom and that sacrifice must always be remembered. These brave men and women are true American heroes. We were privileged to be able to provide this unique salute to service for our Purple Heart heroes.”
“Our Purple Heart recipients have made enormous sacrifices for America, and this was our opportunity to say ‘thank you’ on behalf of a grateful nation. For some, it was the homecoming they never had. We received hundreds of nominations from across the country and we were pleased to honor Walter for his courage and service, both during combat operations and in the years since returning home,” said Col. Russ Vernon (NYARNG Ret.), the Executive Director for the National Purple Heart Honor Mission.
This year’s Patriot Project honorees included men and women Purple Heart recipients from World War II, the Vietnam War, Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, and other conflicts, representing all branches of the service and ranging from 37 to 100-years-old. The event took place between September 18 – 22 in New York.
Schley enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1966 and served for more than 30 years. On August 31, 1969, after having been in Vietnam for 22 months, Schley had 9 days left before he rotated back to the United States. He was serving with Bravo Company, 7th Motor Transport Battalion, 1st Marine Division at Quang Tri Combat Base in the Republic of Vietnam. At about 10pm, the base came under heavy enemy mortar and rocket attack. Schley was the Headquarters Platoon Sergeant, Administration Chief, Headquarters Driver and 50 caliber machine-gunner on gun trucks during convoys. Upon hearing the incoming fire, Schley organized the men under his command to put on their flak jackets and helmets. “I told them to get into the bunkers (as if they didn’t know already to do that). I went up and down the area turning out lights, which the enemy used as aiming points, and I was just turning off one off with the back of my hand an enemy rocket exploded about 15 feet from me. I remember the bright flash then nothing. I woke up seeing stars and realized I was pinned under a locker.” They attack left Schley with shrapnel in my left arm and buttocks, and missing two teeth. Schley was one of 13 wounded Marines and two killed-in-action that resulted from the attack.
Along with the Purple Heart, CW5 Schley was awarded numerous medals and commendations during his service, including two Meritorious Service Medals, the Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal with combat “V”, and more. Schley would later go on to serve as a member of the Marine Corps during the Gulf War, Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Married to his wife, Kathleen, the couple have two children.