MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
In August of 1782, Gen. George Washington introduced the concept of the Purple Heart when he had a desire to award his soldiers for acts of bravery. With the lack of funding, Washington turned to his wife, Martha, to make hearts out of purple velvet with the word ‘Merit’ sewn in the middle. This was the beginning of the Purple Heart.
Washington presented the first Purple Hearts, then called the “badges of Military Merit,” to three of his soldiers in 1782.
Wednesday, Lance Cpl. Tiofilo Corona, Jr., a heavy equipment mechanic with the 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, received his own Purple Heart.
In May, Corona, 20, from Charlotte, Texas, was driving a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle during a route clearance mission in Afghanistan, when his front left tire ran over a pressure plate improvised explosive device. The 60-pound explosion, which was closely beneath him, blew upward through the floorboard, breaking his foot and ankle. He was immediately evacuated for medical care.
“Heavy equipment mechanics are usually inside the wire,” said 1st Sgt. Joe L. Bartee, the remain behind element sergeant major for 3rd CEB. “Being a lance corporal, a young Marine, and doing things outside his [Military Occupational Specialty] and receiving a Purple Heart, is commendable and admirable.”
Corona, like many Marines who are recognized for a job well done, said he feels like he was simply doing his duty.
Soon after his return to the Combat Center, Corona, who joined the Corps in July 2008, learned two of his friends in his platoon had lost their lives in Afghanistan. To Corona, that loss completely overshadowed his own injuries. Receiving a Purple Heart was the last thing on his mind.
“It wasn’t something I was looking to get,” he said. “I was just doing what I was supposed to.”
“That’s what we are all about in the Marine Corps,” Bartee said of Corona, who joined the Marine Corps in July 2008. “It doesn’t matter your rank, it’s what you do. He went out there and did his job. He was doing his mission and job. We are proud of every Marine out there. We are behind our guys.”
While deployed, he formed strong friendships, ones he said he wants to get back to.
Corona was sent home early to give his injuries time to heal. His unit is still out there and he said, if given the option, he would jump on the opportunity to get back to the fight with his fellow Marines.
“All the guys over there are like my family,” he said. “All my good friends are over there.”
Unfortunately for Corona, he will not be able to get back into the fight and join his friends, 3rd CEB is scheduled to come home in October.