Marine Corps Base Quantico --
Staff Sgt. Richard Ryan Parker didn’t expect to receive a Purple Heart. Parker was injured by an improvised explosive device in December 2010 in Afghanistan and his initial application for the award was denied. He figured that was the end of it — until two years ago, when he connected with the Wounded Warrior Regiment and began working with field support representative Brian Liedstrand.
For two years, Liedstrand worked alongside Parker to gather witness statements, endorsements and supporting documents. “He called a lot of people on my behalf,” Parker says.
Wounded Warrior Regiment field support representatives, like Liedstrand, are aware of how challenging these applications can be, especially when a lot of time has passed. Liedstrand and Parker remained diligent, and their hard work paid off. On July 10, Parker was awarded the Purple Heart in a ceremony at his family farm in Mount Ulla, North Carolina. “My grandfather is 91 and doesn’t get around very well anymore, but I wanted him to be a part of it,” Parker says. Having the hometown ceremony made it possible for the entire family to be in attendance.
While finally receiving acknowledgment for what he went through was very important to Parker, he says the greatest benefit was getting to share the moment with his loved ones. “I’ve told stories and shown pictures, but to hear the witness statements and the Purple Heart award read aloud, I think it really put a lot into perspective for [my family]. It helped them appreciate how lucky we are that I’m actually here to receive it.”
Before connecting with Liedstrand and the Wounded Warrior Regiment, Parker says he felt like an afterthought. “It’s definitely good to know that there’s a group out there that can still help and bridge the gap between the active duty side and the retired side for Marines,” he says.
Now Parker and Liedstrand are working together to gather documents for a second Purple Heart award for Parker, who was also injured in a separate IED blast. Parker has high hopes they’ll have similar results with this effort.
“[The Wounded Warrior Regiment] should definitely hold their head high for what they do,” Parker said. “I really appreciate it and I know there are a lot of other Marines out there who also really appreciate it.”
The Sergeant Merlin German Wounded Warrior Call Center is available 24/7/365 to make and receive calls and render assistance to recovering Service members, Marine Veterans, and their families. Call 877–487–6299. For information on consideration for a Purple Heart, read this fact sheet on Purple Heart eligibility.