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C-17A S/N 03-3118
Accepted - April 04, 2004 
Assigned to the 172d Airlift Wing (ANG)  Allen C Thompson Fld, MS 

A1C Renae Kleckner / USAF 

National Guard members including the Mississippi Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Harold Cross and Purple Heart Medal awardees including the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Mr. Gordon H. Mansfield unveil nose art on a Mississippi Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III during an aircraft naming and dedication ceremony Nov. 20 at the 172nd Airlift Wing in Jackson, Miss.  

C-17 named "Spirit of the Purple Heart" 
by Sgt. Scott Tynes, 102nd MPAD

12/1/2007 - JACKSON, Mississippi -- A wounded Soldier is brought into the field hospital in Baghdad, but his injuries are too severe and immediate for the hospital. Even a few years ago, such a situation would have resulted in the death of the Soldier, but the adaptation of the C-17A Globemaster
III to ferry wounded men and women directly from the battleground to hospitals overseas and stateside has saved many lives. 

In recognition of this enormous achievement, of which the 183rd Airlift Squadron of the 172nd Airlift Wing, based in Flowood, Miss., has played a significant role, local, state and national dignitaries gathered at the wing's base Tuesday, Nov. 20, for a unique ceremony. 

Wounded veterans of the past and air ambulances of the present became intertwined when the National Guard commissioned one of 172nd's eight C-17A Globemaster III the "Spirit of the Purple Heart." 

The C-17, tail number 3113, is the first and only aircraft in the U.S. military to carry the
designation. It was selected because of the missions these planes are flying evacuating our wounded Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors from the combat zones in Iraq to hospitals in Germany and the United States. 

The 183rd Airlift Squadron of the 172nd Airlift Wing has flown more than 340 evacuation missions over the past three years, transporting more than 22,000 patients to more comprehensive medical facilities. 

Recently, the 172nd flew directly from Baghdad to Andrews Air Force Base with two in-flight refuelings to save the life of a Soldier, said Maj. Gen. Harold A. Cross, the adjutant general of Mississippi. 

The financial cost of the effort was enormous, but the general said he refused to tally the figures because it was not important when weighed with the life of a Soldier. 

"We're the only nation in the world that would have done that," he said. "We will not leave a wounded Soldier on the battlefield. We will take care of our wounded - always - because they have taken care of us." 

Many of them were in the audience. More than 200 members of the Order of the Purple Heart and their families attended the event to witness the commemoration. 

"The people we honor today received wounds ...but it's more than that. It's true American spirit that we commemorate on the nose of this aircraft today," Cross said. 

The adjutant general said he well understood the sentiment behind the commemoration after personally awarding more than 50 purple hearts to Mississippi veterans wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. 

"And some, unfortunately, to the brave wife or parents whose son or daughter sacrificed their lives," Cross said. 

Gordon Mansfield, acting secretary of the Department of Veteran Affairs, called the Purple Heart "a uniquely American honor" and those who have received it the "lifeline of our

The C-17A is also serving as a lifeline for the men and women wounded overseas. While on a medical evacuation in March 2006, aircraft 3113 set a prestigious record when it topped one million miles for the aircraft type. 

The "Spirit of the Purple Heart" will continue its mission with medical evacuation flights from overseas. 

Mansfield, who earned two Purple Hearts during tours in Korea and Vietnam, said he was honored to speak during the commissioning because it was likely he would represent its passengers in the future. 

"Every service man or woman that that plane brings home will some day belong to the Department of Veterans Affairs," he said. 

Mississippi State Auditor Phil Bryant, the lieutenant governor-elect and a former senator, said he took an oath each time he took office to serve the people of the state, but added a new oath on the stage to protect the rights of the veterans of Mississippi "so help me God." 

"I don't feel like I should lead this group anywhere, but I would follow you anywhere," he said. Lt. Col. Thomas Collins (ret.), a former F4 pilot who was a POW for more than seven years and was awarded two Purple Hearts, said he was impressed with the ceremony. 

"The dedication itself, to me, was very appropriate," he said. "The ability to fly from the battlefield straight to the hospital is tremendous." 

Collins said when he was wounded, it took him a week to make it to a major medical facility. 

The Purple Heart is the oldest military award. It was established by George Washington and was known as the Badge of Military Merit. It now is awarded to anyone serving in the armed forces who received combat-related injuries. Since its inception in 1782, it is estimated that 1,700,000 Purple Heart medals have been awarded to members of the United States military.

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