This Marine Earned Her Purple Heart In Afghanistan, But It Took A 7-Year Detour

On Dec. 16, 2017, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, native Sara McGaffee, finally got what she deserved. And it was her Marine family that made it possible.

McGaffee joined the Marine Corps in 2008. On Oct. 20, 2010, while serving with Combat Logistics Battalion 3 in support of Operation Steel Dawn II, in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan, her vehicle was struck and severely damaged by an improvised explosive device (IED). She was injured in that event herself.

Normally, that would be followed by the awarding of a Purple Heart but, sadly, not in this case. The Purple Heart is awarded to anybody in the military, “who has been wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy.”

Source: U.S. Marines
Sgt. Sara McGaffee, surrounded by fellow Marines.

She was never awarded a Purple Heart and the reason was attributed to, the usual, a bureaucratic SNAFU.

Well…it happens.

Those of us who have been in the military are no strangers to FUBAR. Recently, the Marines at the Recruiting Sub Station in Sioux Falls got word that Sgt. Sara McGaffee had finally been awarded her Purple Heart, but that it was going to simply be mailed to her via US Mail. Well, that did not sit right with the RSS Sioux Falls, NCO in charge, Gunnery Sgt. Paul Odonnell.

Source: U.S. Marines
Sgt. Sara McGaffee is awarded the Purple Heart.

He was not going to have a fellow Marine receive her Purple Heart unceremoniously in the mailbox. He undertook the planning, along with the other Marines at RSS Sioux Falls, and
made arrangements
for her to be given her Purple Heart with the dignity and circumstance of a traditional Marine Corps ceremony.

Source: U.S. Marines
Sgt. Sara McGaffee, surrounded by her Sioux Falls, South Dakota, community.

Odonnell put together the ceremony that included a contingent of Marines, her family and friends. All were dressed in their finest dress blues and the ceremony was conducted with the proper dignity that the awarding of a Purple Heart deserves. In doing this simple, yet very respectful thing for a fellow Marine, we have seen yet another example of the Marine Corps ethic of Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful.

Source U.S. Marines
Sgt. Sara McGaffee and Gunnery Sgt. Paul Odonnell.

The Veterans Site wishes to send its congratulations to Sgt. Sara McGaffee on finally receiving what she had earned in the heat of combat in one of the most dangerous places on the planet.

We thank her for her service. We also send out thanks to the Marines of Recruiting Sub Station, Sioux Falls, for not leaving anyone behind.


The Marine Corps ethic is known in South Dakota as it is around the world; precision, polish, and a dedication to service, second to none. Click the link below to see more of this ethic in action.

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