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VanWey, a local soldier, is awarded a Purple Heart

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SAN ANTONIO - Marine Corps Cpl. Roy VanWey from the India community near Ferris was awarded the Purple Heart during a special ceremony Monday for wounds he suffered while serving in Iraq.

VanWey received the Purple Heart from the U.S. Marine Corps top two commanders - Cmc. Gen. James Conway and Sgt. Major John Estrada, according to Lt. Col Grant Olbrich, officer in charge of the Marine liaison office at Brooke Army Medical Center.

'This guy is a hero to have sustained the wounds he did and work some hard to rehabilitate quickly,' Olbrich said

'He's just a fine, fine Marine.'

Olbrich said Conway and Estrada considered it a true honor to pin the Purple Heart on VanWey.

'He says, ‘Oh, mom it's nothing,'' his mother Martha VanWey said. 'I tell him ‘It's a reward for your bravery and all you have gone through.''

VanWey was traveling with a Navy corpsman and two other Marines in a Humvee while on patrol in Iraq last June when an improved explosive device exploded near the vehicle burning more than 70 percent of VanWey's entire body.

The Ferris graduate suffered third-degree burns to his back, legs, arms and part of his face, but the majority of the burns to his face were second-degree, his wife Cassie VanWey said. He was transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany before being flown stateside to a military medical facility. The Ellis County native spent several months as an inpatient in the burn unit at the U.S. Army's Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, just outside San Antonio.

Martha VanWey said her son now attended the hospital for treatment on an outpatient basis, but takes everything in stride.

'His healing is going very well. He is walking really good,' she said.

'We are very amazed. God has definitely been very, very good to him.'

All American veterans wounded during combat are eligible to receive the Purple Heart.

'It is the oldest military decoration in the world presently in use and the first to be made available to the common soldier,' according to the Military Order of the Purple Heart, a non-profit agency which helps supports Purple Heart recipients.

The Purple Heart evolved from the Badge of Military Merit which Gen. George Washington created in 1782, as stated on the non-profit agency's website.

Following family tradition, VanWey followed his three older brothers into military service and a younger brother followed in his footsteps.

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