MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
“Let it be known that he who wears the Military Order of the Purple Heart has given of his blood in the defense of his homeland and shall forever be revered by his fellow countrymen.”
These words were spoken by Gen. George Washington on Aug. 7, 1782, when he created the Badge of Military Merit, an award given to service members who were wounded in battle during the Revolutionary War.
Only three of the medals were presented during the Revolutionary War, and the award fell into disuse after the war ended. It wasn’t used again until 1932, when then-President Herbert Hoover reinstated the award for all service members wounded or killed after April 5, 1917.
The decoration is known as the Purple Heart Medal today. The Combat Center’s 1st Tank Battalion carried on the tradition Feb. 25 when two Marines from the unit’s Headquarters and Service Company were awarded Purple Hearts.
Cpl. Michael Divirgilio, an antitank missileman, and Lance Cpl. Christopher Scroggins, an assaultman, received the decoration after being wounded by an improvised explosive device Aug. 30.
The two Marines were attached to Company A, 1st Tanks, when they were deployed to Iraq from April to November 2008.
“We were both in the lead vehicle on Route Uranium near Al Asad when we hit a pressure plate IED that knocked us both unconscious,” said Scroggins.
Both Marines were reportedly treated at the scene. Divirgilio was able to remain with Co. A for the rest of the deployment, but Scroggins had to be sent back to the United States to recover from his wounds.
“Today, we’re able to present the most noble of awards to two of our Marines,” said Lt. Col. Tom Gordon, the battalion’s commanding officer. “We all know we can throw a punch and these two Marines showed we can take a punch too.”
In addition to the Purple Heart recipients, four Marines from 3rd Platoon, Company C, were also awarded Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals for their performance during a battalion gunnery exercise Jan. 12 through Feb. 14 at Combat Center Range 500.
The tank crew, led by 2nd Lt. Denver Bane, received the battalion’s “hot shot” award for scoring 926 out of 1,000 during the exercise.
“Gunnery is all about teamwork, and each crew member understanding his responsibilities and executing them,” Bane said. “Each position is critical. One mistake and the entire engagement could be lost.”
The other three tank crew members were:
Cpl. John Schut, gunner
Lance Cpl. Timothy Crawford, loader
Pfc. Joseph Lancaster, driver
“Our sign out front says ‘steel on target,’ and we train effectively to do that,” Gordon said. “In a tank fight, you’re either the hot shot or the first dead. I’m proud of the battalion’s performance during the gunnery.”
The six newly-decorated Marines were able to walk a little taller Wednesday after the awards ceremony. The rest of the battalion was quick to congratulate them and encourage them to never quit.
The Marines and sailors of 1st Tanks train constantly to prepare for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, either to fight on the front lines or provide heavy fire support to other forward deployed ground forces.