News>Aircraft dedicated to Purple Heart recipients
Purple Heart recipients and National Guardsmen unveil special nose art on a Mississippi Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III during an aircraft naming and dedication ceremony Nov. 20 at the 172nd Airlift Wing in Jackson, Miss. The wing routinely flies aeromedical evacuation missions from Iraq to Germany, and then on to the U.S. Aircrews have transported more than 19,000 patients since the wing's mobilization for the mission in October 2005. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Mike Smith)
11/27/2007 - JACKSON, Miss. (AFPN) -- One of the Air Force's most modern cargo aircraft was named after the nation's oldest military decoration Nov. 20 in a ceremony attended by Medal of Honor and Purple Heart medal recipients.
The Mississippi Air National Guard's 172nd Airlift Wing named one of its C-17 Globemaster IIIs "The Spirit of the Purple Heart" and painted a Purple Heart medal nose art above its passenger door to honor the nation's combat wounded.
The unit routinely flies aeromedical evacuation missions from Balad Air Base Hospital, Iraq, to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, and then on to Walter Reed Medical Center, District of Columbia aircrews have transported more than 19,000 patients since its mobilization for the mission in October 2005.
The wing chose to name this aircraft, No. 33113, because it flew the C-17's millionth-hour mission during an aeromedical flight from Balad in March 2006.
Active duty, Guard and Reserve members, past and present combat veterans and their families, and political dignitaries gathered to dedicate the "The Spirit of the Purple Heart" with patriotic speeches, an aircraft tour and an unveiling of its nose art.
Dignitaries included lieutenant governor-elect Phil Bryant, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Mr. Gordon H. Mansfield and Maj. Gen. Harold Cross, the Mississippi adjutant general.
General Cross said the nose art will serve as a long-standing honor to the sacrifices combat wounded and their families make to protect the nation.
"We will sign the vivid air with your honor as this Purple Heart slices through the sky ... and we will take care of our wounded, always, because they have taken care of us," General Cross said.
General Cross' words echoed from the stage, set inside a C-17 hanger as the autumn sun cast long shadows from the aircraft parked outside. A slight breeze unfurled dozens of American flags held by members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, or MOPH, and other veteran's organizations.
Tech. Sgt. Bobby Kinabrew, the aircraft's crew chief who helped coordinate the aircraft's naming, said the unit worked with members of the MOPH to select a name and nose art. He said he felt compelled to push the naming request through his chain of command because his uncle is a retired Army sergeant major who received a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam.
After its approval, wing maintenance personnel as well as members of the Boeing company worked for two days using screen printing inks and stencils to paint the purple-, gold- and black-colored nose art onto the aircraft.
"It looks wonderful in my eyes," Sergeant Kinabrew said. "I hope it honors all of the recipients of the Purple Heart."
Retired Army Col. Henry Cook, the MOPH's national commander, said that the nose art pays a fitting tribute to the medal. The MOPH's more than 40,000 combat wounded veterans are the self-proclaimed custodians of the medal.
"It says so much because it honors everybody who flies aboard it who has made that sacrifice for this country ... now they come back in an aircraft that honors them," said Colonel Cook, who received his Purple Heart medal in World War II.
The Purple Heart medal is one of the most recognized and respected medals in the U.S. military. It is awarded to servicemembers wounded in combat. It was created in 1782 by Gen. George Washington as a Military Badge of Merit. It's the oldest military decoration in the nation, and it was the first enlisted medal of any army of the 1700s. Gen. Douglas MacArthur resurrected the medal in 1931 as a way to recognize combat wounded.