ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WNCT)–The holidays can be a difficult time for our service members and their families. But an annual tradition in Onslow County is working to make it easier, by providing financial assistance to Wounded Warriors.
On Thursday, the Coastal NC Veterans Foundation, supported by the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapters 639 and 642 distributed checks to Purple Heart recipients from II MEF and MARSOC.
The tradition started about 10 years ago in the old Wounded Warriors’ barracks. A lance corporal asked the national commander to help him get home for the holidays. Capt. (Ret.) Jim Casti stepped up to help.
“You can look around and see every one of us is wounded,” Casti said. “We’ve all been wounded in other wars. Nobody looked after us and I came up with the idea in 2005 that I’d like to do it.”
Since then, every year the community comes together to raise thousands of dollars to help the Wounded Warriors get home.
“It’s very important to us,” GySgt. (Ret.) Rose Marie Noel, said. “We pride ourselves on taking care of our own.”
Victor Altamirano is one Purple Heart recipient who received a check today. He’s using it to head home to see his family in New York.
“This is the last year my dad is going to be in New York,” he said. “So the whole family wants to get down there with all of the kids and everything and just spend the last real Christmas in New York visiting all of the sites.”
To receive the funds, warriors had to bring a copy of their leave orders and proof of travel home. The money can go toward airfare, train, bus or even POV. Fifty-eight Wounded Warriors received funds last year, and organizers hope the number will be less this year.
“We hope to run out of Wounded Warriors, but as long as there are Wounded Warriors we will make it happen,” Casti said.
Since it’s inception, over $2 million has been disbursed.