SAN ANTONIO – National Purple Heart Day is Sunday, and a local organization is helping recipients from Texas and across the country.
The Purple Heart Project is hosting its 3rd annual fundraiser on Saturday, where more than 30 recipients will be honored for their service and sacrifice. The project provides valuable community resources to veterans.
One of those recipients is Boerne resident James Elkins, a former U.S. Army Ranger. Elkins was wounded in March 2012 while on patrol in Southern Afghanistan.
“We were on dismounted patrol. It was a company element, meaning everyone was out there,” said Elkins. “I went out to clear a grape hut with two other of my soldiers, and as I was beaching the door and going in, I received a gunshot wound through the back of my head, and it came out right at my lower lip, dropped me to the ground. I got back up.”
Elkins was transported to a hospital in Kandahar and received his Purple Heart while in the emergency room.
“I received my Purple Heart from a general with the 82nd. He was at the base at the time. From there, I was flown to Bagram, where I underwent about an eight-hour surgery. They took out all the bone fragments from my jaw that the bullet displaced. They put an eight-inch titanium plate on the outside and a six-inch titanium plate on the inside and zipped it all up. And that was it. Just one surgery.”
Elkins flew to San Antonio to continue his recovery and transition from active duty.
“There was a lot of organizations in the San Antonio area that were there to assist in the transition of wounded soldiers going from their military sector to the civilian sector. I started donating my time with a lot of them because there were a lot of other guys and gals wounded at the same time as me. It really was just spreading the message that just because you had a bad day doesn’t mean everything’s over,” said Elkins.
Wrestling superstar Bill Goldberg is one of the biggest advocates for veterans in the San Antonio area. Goldberg has raised awareness for local veteran causes since he moved to the area two years ago.
“They’re very selfless. Let’s be perfectly honest. The last thing that veterans and, most importantly, Purple Heart recipients want is attention,” said Goldberg. “The biggest thing in speaking to the recipients throughout the years is the ability to get with the likeminded people and not be cast out in front of a microscope, to be able to just have those normal conversations, which truly at the end of the day, is like therapy for them.”
Goldberg will be the keynote speaker at Saturday’s fundraiser in Boerne, honoring Elkins and other wounded veterans. He said events like these are important to veterans in the community.
“You see the result for future generations in that you’re setting a good example for the kids in our community to continue on the hard work,” said Goldberg. “I hate to say because it sounds selfish, but I think I get more out of it than they do.”
Elkins said there was no doubt that he would recover after his injury and be there for his wife and child.
“When you hear disabled veteran or wounded veteran, you immediately think that they’ve lost something, but really they’ve gained it,” said Elkins. “Just because you left a part of you on the battlefield, that experience and that determination to get past a tough day, if you take that and apply that into the corporate world, you can never fail. You constantly succeed.”
Click here for more information on the Purple Heart Project. Saturday’s fundraiser is closed to the public, but charitable donations can be made for Purple Heart recipients. The event has grown from honoring 13 recipients in its first year to at least 35 this year.