AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) — At 76 years old, and after 42 years of serving in the U.S. Army, Roy Ray has a lot of stories.
“They say ‘You are a hero, you got a Purple Heart.’ I said, ‘That makes me a hero? It might just make me too slow to get out of the way,’” he chuckled.
Ray was shot twice, a bullet in each thigh, while fighting in the Vietnam War.
“I was awarded the medal lying in the bed after they pulled me off the battlefield,” Roy said.
At the time he says it was hard to understand the significance. Today, his life revolves around that honor.
“A lot of us that are awarded it are not here today and that makes it really special,” he said.
Even in retirement his service continues — Roy is now running the Military Order of the Purple Heart in Aurora.
The chapter started in 2007 and is made up entirely of medal recipients and their family members.
Together they serve meals, visit schools, award scholarships and recognize their fellow service members through a variety of different events.
“Right now most of our chapters throughout the country are Vietnam veterans, but those guys, I mean, the years are just going by and we have gotten to be those old guys now,” he said.
The group is now planning a picnic with the hopes of attracting more post Sept. 11 Purple Heart families.
Without them, Roy worries the organization will struggle moving forward.
“We are going to need the younger generations to pick up the pieces and carry this organization forward and that goes for all the veterans’ organizations,” he said.
Above all, his hope is to be a mentor to a generation he has had little opportunity to meet, but has so much in common with.
“Nobody else can join — it is only Purple Heart recipients. Come out and see what we do and help us to help people like ourselves to survive and deal with all the trauma and all the other stuff going on around us,” Roy said.
The Purple Heart Recipents BBQ And Fun Event takes place Saturday, Sept. 8 from 11:30 a.m to 1:30 p.m. at the General’s Park At Fitzsimons, 1561 N. Wuentin St. Site #3, Aurora, Colorado, 80045.
RSVP to Paco Elizalde
Bring proof of Purple Heart, for example: DD214, DD215, Purple Heart orders, Purple Heart certificate or Veterans Affairs ID card with Purple Heart identifier.
Karen Morfitt joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2013. She covers a variety of stories in and around the Denver metro area. Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @karenmorfitt or email her tips.