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Saluting Their Service - Medals in the Mail
ALLEGAN, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - In a "Saluting Their Service" special report, we found that close to 10,000 service members return to Michigan from active duty each year.
Often, however, when many of them come home, these men and women haven't received every honor they deserve.
Jason Wright joined the Marine Corps at 17.
"I signed up in the a.m., in the p.m. I was in San Diego Boot Camp," he recalls.
Wright served our country for 12 years--a recon Marine, and joined the army in 2003.
He later got married and then deployed to Iraq.
Wright had seen combat before, but this time, it would change his life forever.
He had only been in Iraq three weeks when his humvee hit two anti-tank bombs under the asphalt.
"It launched us up 5.5 feet in the air [...] came back down engulfed in flames," he said.
The second time he was injured, he was in his bed.
"They sent a 15,000 gallon fuel tanker half-full of fuel, half bombs, and a suicide bomber," Wright told Newschannel 3.
The blast launched him out of bed, and into a concrete wall.
"I have partial fusion on my ankle with screws and a plate," Wright said.
He also has arthritis in his back, a traumatic brain injury, and PTSD.
But Jason Wright never received either of his two Purple Hearts while on active duty.
While he was fighting that war, his wife Amy was in Michigan, waiting for him to come home.
"I just remember looking in the window, looking for him; I saw him in one of the buses and I ran with the bus," Amy said. "He got out and I just hugged him; I couldn't let him go for 10 minutes. I could just take a breath, I could be okay now."
When Jason got off the bus though, he wasn't the same as when he left.
The traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder have had a significant impact on Jason.
"Sometimes I get little flashes of him; for the most part it's like getting to know a new person. But he's home," described Amy.
Amy knew that Jason served bravely in Iraq, but it wasn't until almost four years later that they both learned that Jason earned 10 medals in his time in Iraq.
He was waiting to receive them, but he never thought they'd show up like they did--in a large manila envelope, stuck between the doors on the side of the house.
Getting medals is more common than one might think, but the Wrights say when they got their medals in a package, they were shocked.
"That he would get medals in our door, like they didn't mean anything, like he was just considered a number," Amy said.
That's not the way we imagine that a decorated war hero would receive their medals, but the truth is, it does happen, and sometimes, they never show up at all.
We spoke to Vietnam veteran Bill Rousch, who was awarded a Bronze Star for his service--sort of.
He has the paperwork to prove he earned it, but 43 years later, it still hasn't come.
"I don't know, I just didn't have any desire to get a lot of medals and put them on my chest," Roush said. "But I do want my kids to know."
Bill received a Purple Heart as well, but he never got that one, either.
Now, he spends his days working with other Purple Heart recipients.
"I've gotten a lot of people their medals and everything," he said. "I don't know, my joy is helping the other veterans; that's my mission."
IT may not be his mission, but Bill says one day he'd like to actually get those medals.
As for the Wrights, they are currently working with Congressman Fred Upton's office about a possible ceremony.
They hope to get that honor for Jason soon.