August 7th is National Purple Heart Day. The Purple Heart award is a heart-shaped medal with a gold border, 1 3⁄8 inches (35 mm) wide, containing a profile of Gen. George Washington. Above the heart appears a shield of the coat of arms of George Washington (a white shield with two red bars and three red stars in chief) between sprays of green leaves. The reverse consists of a raised bronze heart with the words “FOR MILITARY MERIT” below the coat of arms and leaves. 

It is earned through a recommendation by one’s command based on injuries sustained and can also be requested post-injury by veterans through the National Personnel Records Center. The Purple Heart medal has also been awarded posthumously. 

I’ve had the honor of speaking with many Purple Heart veterans, unbeknownst to me. When I reached out to veterans and their caregivers in an attempt to find someone to interview for this article, not many were interested. Whether the circumstances were just too difficult to speak of or they were just so humble, they didn’t want the spotlight; it just wasn’t something most were comfortable with. 

Take a moment, though, and really think about what it means to have received this medal. No doubt, rehashing the events of how it was earned isn’t something that many want to dive into understandably so. 

As my husband’s late grandfather, Osee Fagan Sr., affectionately known as “Papa,” became sick, he asked to speak to my husband about his Purple Heart and the near-death experiences where it was earned. His almost 97-year-old wife, Dorothy, gave my husband his medals when he passed away, and every day, I see them in a shadow box in my dining area. The Purple Heart stands out proudly. Below the medals and dog tags is a plaque, written by my husband. He had the opportunity to sit with Papa and hear stories he had never heard before. I imagine Papa knew that my husband may understand his trials by speaking on something that had been so hard to live with. Less than one month before he passed away, the two of them were able to have this visit. What a blessing to have the words to tell this story. It’s a warrior’s legacy that is now on paper for others to see and read. To know the definition by real-life experiences of what a Purple Heart truly is. Everyone enjoys reading the story of “Osee Robert Fagan,” and I thought you may too…


I had the unique opportunity this past Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2014, to sit down with Osee Robert Fagan Sr., “Papa,” and discuss some of his experiences from his military service during World War II. These are his accounts of what he can remember at the age of 90, along with some input from me regarding similarities that I experienced during my recent military service in recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. He served in the U.S. Army and was a 1st Scout in the 78th division, 310th infantry, 3rd platoon. He was in the Army for twenty-five months before he got his 1st stripe (rank). He made Corporal a year after that and eventually made Staff Sergeant.

His Company Commander was Captain Olson; his Platoon Leader was Lt Kelly. He specifically stated he had bad feelings about Lt Kelly.

They were shipped overseas to war in numerous troop carriers. They would travel in groups of 8-10 carrier ships. During the transit over, he remembers all the power going out on his ship, and other ships passing by so closely, that he did not even know if the others saw his vessel. The others continued on, however, leaving his ship stranded in the middle of the ocean. Eventually, his group regained power and caught up with the others. Once in combat, Papa carried an M1 rifle, one bandolier wrapped around his neck, two grenades, and a helmet. Everyone was trying to be the first to reach Berlin, so the units just kept pushing. They would come upon multiple little towns and villages, occupy them, and then move on to the next one. I shared with him that this sounded exactly like my experience during OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM 1 when my Marine Unit pushed north from Kuwait on a race to Baghdad while taking village after village.

The area/town he was hit in was “EUSKERCHIN” in Germany. Papa was running with two other soldiers in his platoon as they continued crossing small ditches. Airburst artillery was going off all around him.

He said this was not new; he was used to the artillery. If the fire were close enough, the airbursts would take the breath right out of you. As they were advancing on the enemy and crossing ditches in the rain, an “airburst” went off close to him, and the other two soldiers running along with him. The fire hit all three of them, and, at first, Papa did not realize he had been hit. He went down and then realized that the other two soldiers alongside him had not made it. He also realized that he had been hit in the stomach. He was exhausted and remembered lying in a ditch over his rifle to stay low. He kept taking his pulse continuously and was aware it was growing weaker. He could remember how cold he was and the constant rain coming down on him. Artillery continued to fire, and there were no medics in the vicinity to tend to him. It seemed like forever that he laid in that ditch with no one coming for help. Once again, he stated he could tell he was getting weaker and weaker. He passed out eventually. He stated that he must have been going in and out of consciousness.

He finally decided that he was going to have to go for help. He climbed out of the ditch but could not stand straight due to his injuries. He started walking back in the direction he came from, hunched over, trying to find a medic. He passed several Germans at this point, trying to surrender. He wanted nothing to do with them and continued walking, trying to find an American Medic. He was cold and wet due to the rain, getting weaker and weaker, and at this point, he believed he passed out.

He came to, remembering being loaded in a vehicle by other soldiers. He was in and out of consciousness while in the vehicle that transported him back to a consolidation point where hundreds of other injured soldiers were lying on cots in a field. He felt he spent some time there. From there, he was eventually transferred to a medical facility where his wounds were tended to, and then, eventually, he remembers being in France. The shrapnel had torn and cut his intestines, which had to be sewn up. He remembers being in the medical facility and watching other soldiers getting sent off, time after time, while he had to stay. This bothered him, and he did not understand why he was still there. He finally asked a nurse what the problem was, and she informed him that his father was on his way to visit him. Once his father saw him, it was the best feeling in the world… His father asked how he was and wanted to see the shrapnel. He believes they got some out, but some of it remained in his stomach. The date of Papa’s injury was March 4, 1945, the same month and date, though not the same year, as my date of birth.

I sat down with Papa and took notes for about two hours. Initially, he expressed that he was willing and wanted to discuss this with me. It took him at least 30-45 minutes to think before he began speaking.

He explained multiple times that he had not thought about this in so long because the memories were so hard for him. He could not remember the exact number of men in his platoon/company that died in war (1,427 KIA, 6,103 WIA in the 78th division). He could not remember the names of the two soldiers that died next to him.

I plan to continue to look at historical data to find more details about his exact Unit.

I love you, Papa.


His hardships didn’t end there. Papa lost his first wife in 1956, but he later married his sweetheart, Dorothy, and raised four children. He became a prominent judge in Alachua County, FL, and a successful businessman. He lived a life worth living but never told his story until his deathbed. Papa passed away on December 16, 2014, at 90.

While scouring the internet for information on the Purple Heart, some rather interesting articles and information were available. First, there was a time when the Purple Heart was available for civilians, with the final being awarded in 1996 and this being overruled in 1997. More than 1.8 million Purple Heart medals have been awarded to veterans since the award was created in 1782.

The Purple Heart is the oldest Military award still presented and was one of the first medals offered to all ranks when earned. Animals have earned the Purple Heart medal. Ever heard of Sgt. “Stubby” the dog, or Sgt. “Reckless” the horse? Army Lt. Annie G. Fox was the first woman awarded the Purple Heart for her actions on the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. President John F. Kennedy is the only president to receive the Purple Heart, Navy, and Marine Corps Medal.  

The Purple Heart Medal is an esteemed honor that is earned by blood, sweat, tears, and even death. You can read more stories like this here or enroll veterans who may not be on the wall of honor. Writing this article made me realize that my husband’s grandfather was not on the wall, considering the time of the award. We plan to fix that so that his story may go on to inspire others. Let’s continue to honor these veterans by telling their story because it’s a great way for our children to learn more about our history and the unity of the service members of the greatest country in the world: the United States of America.


Lauren Fagan

Lauren Fagan is a veteran spouse and caregiver. Her husband, Osee, was an active-duty Reconnaissance Marine for 17 years and has multiple combat-related injuries. They have been together for nearly fifteen years and have four amazing children. Lauren is a schoolteacher by trade and loves to read, write, create, live the mermaid life, and be anywhere with her family. She is an active member of her church, and you can usually find her working in the Children’s Ministry there.

Lauren has a strong passion for helping veterans and has advocated not just for her husband but for others as well through the non-profit that she and her husband founded in 2017 in NE Florida called “Operation Barnabas, Inc.” The Fagan’s relocated back to North Carolina in 2021 and continue to assist veterans and their families through the “SpearIt Veteran Spearfishing Project.”

Lauren has written several blogs for Hope For The Warriors and hopes that in sharing her experiences as a caregiver and veteran spouse, the positive impact on other caregivers will be helpful and encouraging in some of their most trying times.

Lauren’s outlook has drastically changed with the seasons and transitions in her life. Seeing the beauty in each one has been pivotal in her mental health and the happiness of their family.