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Sioux Falls Marines show what it means to never leave a Marine behind by awarding Purple Heart

December 22, 2017

This report originally publishes at marines.mil.

When Marines graduate recruit training, not only are they gaining the title of Marine, they are also gaining a family. The bonds of the Marines to their left and right often run thicker than blood.

Marines would give their lives for each other and when one of their own needs help, they never hesitate to step up. This link lasts a lifetime, even when their active duty time is finished. If there are two phrases that every Marine takes to heart, it’s “once a Marine, always a Marine” and “never leave a Marine behind.”

Because of these two deeply understood Marine Corps sentiments, the Recruiting Sub Station Sioux Falls Marines did not think twice about helping a Marine receive what she rightfully deserved.

Sergeant Sara McGaffee joined the Marine Corps in 2008 out of Sioux Falls, S.D. On Oct. 20, 2010, while deployed with Combat Logistics Battalion 3, McGaffee’s vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device while conducting convoy operations in support of Operation Steel Dawn II in the Helmand province of Afghanistan.

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McGaffee sustained considerable injuries in the blast.

Due to an administrative oversight, however, McGaffee was never awarded the Purple Heart Medal. But, when the award finally came through, it was set to be mailed to McGaffee directly. Gunnery Sgt. Paul Odonnell, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of RSS Sioux Falls, heard her story and refused to let her receive such a prestigious award in the mail despite the fact that McGaffee was no longer on active duty.

McGaffee was awarded her Purple Heart Medal, Dec. 16, during a traditional Marine Corps ceremony in front of Marines and her local friends and family. 

The Purple Heart Medal is awarded to members of the military of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy.

“Having Sgt. McGaffee’s friends and family here today just goes to show how incredible the state of South Dakota is,” said Odonnell. “We had an opportunity to do this ceremony the right way and I think we captured what it really means to always be a Marine. We support our family.”

U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) reports are created independently of American Military News (AMN) and are distributed by AMN in accordance with applicable guidelines and copyright guidance. Use of USMC and U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) reports do not imply endorsement of AMN. AMN is a privately owned media company and has no affiliation with USMC and the DOD.