Copperas Cove man to give president his Purple Heart Posted on: Monday, April 16, 2007

By Joyce May
Killeen Daily Herald

COPPERAS COVE History will be made today when Copperas Cove resident Bill Thomas and his wife, Georgia, present President George W. Bush with a Purple Heart at the Oval Office.

Thomas said he and his wife came up with the unprecedented idea to present the president with the Purple Heart over breakfast one morning a few months ago as they discussed the verbal attacks, both foreign and domestic, the commander in chief has withstood during his time in office.

"We feel like emotional wounds and scars are as hard to carry as physical wounds," Thomas said.

The medal was awarded to Thomas on Dec. 18, 1965, following injuries he sustained while serving in heavy combat with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam.

It is one of three he was awarded during his service.

Thomas said the Purple Heart he is presenting the president has special meaning to him because the injury he suffered to earn it occurred just after a friend, Richard Peterson, lost his life attempting to save him.

"The hand grenade came in, and I didn't see it. Before diving, which he should have ... he pushed me down and the delay cost him his life," Thomas recalled. "Shortly after that, I was laying in position ... and took a .50-caliber round that shattered my shoulder blade and virtually took out my right lung."

Thomas said he drew up a citation and he and his wife signed it before dropping it and the medal off with Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, to forward to President Bush.

"Congressman Carter called me last week and said the President was very moved by it, and would like us to present it in person," Thomas said.

Thomas is taking a copy of the original citation showing the origin of the actual medal to present as a companion piece with the citation he drew up for the President.

He has drawn criticism from some locals who have learned of his actions, Thomas said. Nevertheless, he said he earned the Purple Heart and it is his to do with it as he sees fit.

"I feel the President deserved one," he said. "The bottom line is, I paid for these Purple Hearts with my blood."

The Thomas' are scheduled to be at the White House at 12:30 p.m. Monday.

"As John Carter said, this is a piece of American history," Thomas said.

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