Central Texas Heroes: The Military Order of the Purple Heart

WACO, Texas (KWTX) Many combat veterans come home with wounds that may never completely heal.

The Purple Heart is awarded to those wounded in combat.

And the Military Order of the Purple Heart is there to help connect those veterans with the benefits to which they're entitled.

But it also provides a support system of individuals who have been through the same thing.

John Footman is one of the Central Texas Heroes who keeps the organization going.

"First one, I was wounded in my left leg. I was hit with shrapnel in my left leg. My second wound was when I got blown up on a 113, APC (armored personnel carrier)," Footman told us.

Footman served two tours in Vietnam but his second injury almost changed his life forever.

"We hit a 60 pound mine," he said, "I stayed in the hospital about three weeks and I was told I wasn't going to walk anymore."

He suffered major injuries to his hips, knees and back.

But even though doctors were skeptical he pushed himself, eventually gaining enough strength and mobility in his legs to walk on his own.

"I refused to come home to my family in a wheelchair," he said.

These days he's a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, holding state office, and serving as chaplain of his chapter.

The organization donates scholarships to wounded veterans and their families and connects veterans with their rightful benefits.

And the needs are great.

"Leg wounds, arms, limbs, missing legs, missing arms, some people lost their eyes, some people lost their ears, a lot of people got burned real bad," he told us.

But Footman wants people to know it can get better.

"I know a colonel who lost both of his legs and if he walked through that door you'd never know he lost his legs," he said.

Dealing with physical injuries through prosthetics and medical care is one thing.

But the group also provides a camaraderie that no one else can.

As chaplain, Footman knows that first hand.

"You've been in combat, I've been in combat, and I know what it's like to lose a buddy who's been laying right beside you every day," he said.

But sometimes breaking through the barrier of trauma can be tough.

"Right now a lot of our Purple Heart recipients that have gotten wounded, some of them don't want to talk, they keep everything bottled up inside of hem. But if you get them off by theirself you can start talking to them and they'll open up," Footman said.

Footman says healing doesn't just take weeks, months or even years.

Sometimes the wounds never go away whether physical or emotional.

But the Military Order of the Purple Heart will be there from the first step to help people through it and it starts with one thing.

Footman said, "you've got to have hope, somebody that has hope because some people are just down, they give up too easily."