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Marine Corps apologizes for Purple Heart Christmas mixup

December 13, 2011 |  6:51 pm

The Marine Corps apologized Tuesday for mistakenly sending Purple Heart Christmas ornaments to the families of 1,150 deceased Marines and sailors.

"There are no words to express how very sorry we are for the hurt such a mistake has caused the families of our fallen warriors," said Col. John L. Mayer, commanding officer of the Wounded Warrior Regiment.

The ornaments were supposed to be sent only to living recipients of the Purple Heart, a medal bestowed on those wounded in combat. The goal was to thank the recipients for their service.

The ornaments are gold with an image of the Purple Heart. They came in envelopes addressed to the deceased service personnel, with a letter of thanks and information about a physical conditioning program.

More than 9,000 of the ornaments were donated to the Wounded Warrior Regiment by a charitable organization, in what is the third year of the Christmas ornament program. No problems were uncovered in the past two years when the ornaments were mailed.

The Marine Corps learned of the mixup when families of deceased Marines and sailors called this week. Letters of apology are being sent and Mayer is following up with phone calls.

"There is no excuse for why this happened," Mayer said. "We accept full responsibility."

The Wounded Warior Regiment commands the operations of Wounded Warrior Battalions at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Camp Lejeune, N.C., where nonmedical care is provided to Marines and sailors wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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 -- Tony Perry in San Diego

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