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Ceremony bittersweet for decorated Marine

May 30, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - United States Marine Corps Sgt. Terry Orndorff will be concluding his military service today, but he said Monday was the perfect ending to his career.

Orndorff was awarded a Purple Heart during an afternoon Memorial Day service at Pleasant View Memory Gardens in Martinsburg - his hometown.

Orndorff was wounded in February when an explosive device detonated near him while he was serving in Iraq. He had been there eight months when he was injured, and he said it was at least the 10th explosion he had survived during that time.

Orndorff had a severe concussion, a damaged ear drum and some lower back injuries, he said.

He returned home in March to his wife, Lori, and 4-year-old son, Avery. When Orndorff was able to choose how he wanted to receive his Purple Heart, he decided he wanted to receive the honor in Martinsburg during the Memorial Day service.

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"Some people just get theirs in the mail," he said. "I wanted it here, with my family."

About 30 minutes after the medal was pinned on Orndorff's uniform, his mother-in-law, Deborah Hammond of Falling Waters, W.Va., was still emotional.

"They are happy tears," she said. "I'm very proud of him."

Hammond said the honor was emotional for her family, and she was moved by a speech that mentioned the sacrifice of the families who have loved ones serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hammond said she will never forget the moment she heard that Orndorff was wounded.

"It's just not something you forget," she said. "We're just so glad he got home in one piece."

Orndorff said he was honored to receive a Purple Heart, but it was also a bittersweet day.

"This is probably the last time I'll wear this uniform," he said. "And that's tough. Once you're a Marine, you're always a Marine. It's hard to give up."

Orndorff had been out of active duty for years, but he signed up again after Sept. 11, 2001.

About 100 people were at the service, which also included speeches by retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier Gen. John Wright, Director of Veterans Affairs Medical Center Fernando Rivera, incoming West Virginia Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Gary Miller and Chief of Staff of Region II Order of the Purple Heart James Grose.

"We honor those who have paid the ultimate price for freedom," Rivera said.

Berkeley County Sheriff W. Randy Smith also spoke.

This was Pleasant View Memory Gardens' first Memorial Day service. Balloons were released during the service to honor those who serve or have served in the military. White doves also were released at the end of the service.

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