Heroes home for the holidays

JACKSONVILLE - More than 130 local wounded warriors will get to go home for Christmas, and it's all thanks to donations from people mostly in Eastern North Carolina. 

The New Bern and Jacksonville chapters of the Military Order of the Purple Heart handed out checks to wounded heroes Thursday.  The checks will cover part of the travel expenses of the service members this holiday season.

"When I came back from Vietnam, we didn't have anything like this," said Verl Matthews, Commander of Military Order of the Purple Heart Beirut Memorial Chapter.  "I almost had to hitchhike home on Christmas leave."

That's why the two chapters of the MOPH began this program six years ago.  

Matthews said the MOPH will cover 80% of the airfare if the wounded warrior flies home, with a limit of $1,000, or 40 cents a mile if they drive home, with a limit of $500.  

"You can't put a price on it," said Sgt. John Dozier, a wounded warrior and a Purple Heart recipient.  Dozier said without the extra $500 for gas, he and his wife wouldn't be able to see her family in West Palm Beach, Florida.  

"It's a huge help," said Dozier. "It's a nice relief to be able to travel down to see family and not have to stress out about how we're going to get there."

Members of the MOPH raised more than $365,000 for this event.  Matthews said donations came mainly from people here in Eastern North Carolina.

"We've had money contributions from everybody all over the country but especially Craven, Jones, and Onslow County," said Matthews.  "They're making the contributions that are really allowing these guys to go home."

The MOPH is now accepting donations for next year.  If you'd like to donate, click HERE.

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