NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Do you know a military hero who’s been awarded with a Purple Heart?
A special place in Orange County wants to preserve their stories and pass them on to younger generations.
The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New Windsor is on a mission to collect and share the stories of recipients like Tony Lassiter. The 72-year-old was wounded when his convoy was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during the Vietnam War.
“That’s the one medal that you don’t want to get, but since I have it, that’s the one medal I’m really proud of,” he told CBS2’s Cindy Hsu. “There’s only two ways to get that medal – you get wounded or you get killed.”
Web Extra: Click Here To Enroll For The Roll Of Honor
Two of Lassiter’s fellow soldiers were killed in the attack. While it’s been 50 years, he still has nightmares about Vietnam.
“I can still see it so clearly, and I guess that’s some of the problems that I have. I can’t let it go,” he said.
His story is now part of a database known as the Roll of Honor.
An estimated 1.8 million Purple Hearts have been awarded, but the government doesn’t have an official list of recipients. The Roll of Honor only represents about 10 percent.
To enroll, the recipients just have to fill out a form, which includes verification the award was made.
“It’s voluntary – that’s the catch, our Achilles heel, our challenge. There are no master lists to draw upon,” said Peter Bedrossian, of the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor. “We rely on recipients, their families or friends to do this.”
The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor opened in 2006, and many school groups have visited since. It’s open six days a week and it’s free to visit.
Lassiter said it’s been a place to share his past, especially with his oldest grandson.
“He thinks I’m a hero, but I’m just saying, ‘hey look, I did what we all should do – we serve our country,’” he said.
The stories collected there are teaching the next generation about courage and sacrifice.