Purple Heart Medal recipients, spouses and Gold Star Family members dressed to impress Saturday for the 15th annual Military Order of the Purple Heart Ball, held at Club hood.

The approximately 250 attendees were treated to a night of good food, fellowship and dancing, with members of the Shoemaker High School Junior ROTC providing a color guard and Texas State Rep. Hugh Shine, R-Temple, attending as the guest speaker. The event honored all veterans of Operations Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

“The main thing is to let (Purple Heart recipients), and especially the Gold Star Families, know that we haven’t forgotten about them,” said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Earl Williams, department vice commander of the Texas Military Order of the Purple Heart. “Some of them think that once they leave the military, no one cares about them or their children. This is one way of reaching out to them once a year to let them know that we have not forgotten the sacrifice their loved one made.”

Quite a lot of community support goes into putting the annual ball on, Williams said.

“We go out and ask (businesses) to sponsor a table for $160,” he said. “There’s 10 people at each table, Purple Heart recipients and their spouses, and that sponsored table takes care of their meal and everything.”

For one Gold Star Family member, the event is a great way to honor the life of her late husband.

“It’s very important for us when we get invited to these events, where they say ‘thank you’ and we’re not forgotten and are welcomed,” said Malia Fry, whose husband, explosive ordnance disposal technician Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. John Fry, was killed in action March 8, 2006. “Sometimes we feel that maybe we are a bad reminder, but these events tell us that we’re not a bad reminder, that we’re someone they want around.”

Fry, a Waco native, said it feels like “you lose your whole entire world” when someone loses their spouse while serving on active duty. John Fry was her high school sweetheart and they were married four days after he graduated from boot camp. He had served in the Marines for 11 years before his death.

“Sometimes in the landscape of the media, people die and they don’t even report it, so we start to feel very forgotten, that their sacrifices mean nothing,” she said. “So when retirees, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and other organizations reach out to us, it’s just a reminder that they didn’t die for nothing, that there are still people who appreciate their sacrifice and want to honor it.

“When you lose your world, that means a lot.”

dbryant@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7554

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