Soldier seeks to start area chapter

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AIKEN --- Sgt. 1st Class William Reese, of the South Carolina National Guard 1221st Clearance Company, wants to honor the memory of a fellow serviceman who was killed in Iraq nearly a year ago.

To do so, he's looking to establish a chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart in Aiken to remember Cpl. Matthew Dillon, who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in December 2006.

It's a goal Sgt. 1st Class Reese said he could use a little help with, needing at least two more members to meet a 12-member requirement to activate charter No. 2006.

"We don't have quite enough," said Sgt. 1st Class Reese, who served in Iraq with Cpl. Dillon in the same National Guard platoon in 2003. "We're trying to get more people involved."

Cpl. Dillon is one of more than 3,800 American soldiers who have been killed in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion. More than 28,000 American soldiers have been wounded there.

"When he got back (from a 2003 mission), he decided he wanted to go active-duty," Sgt. 1st Class Reese said of Cpl. Dillon, who joined the Marines and returned to Iraq in 2006.

A group of Purple Heart recipients, who include veterans of the Iraq War and past wars, meet at 8 a.m. every third Saturday at the Shoney's on Whiskey Road in Aiken.

Once the group gets its charter, it will try to find a permanent place for a meeting house, Sgt. 1st Class Reese said.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart, like other military associations, tries to provide help to hospitalized and needy veterans and their families.

"We all help and do a good thing for the communities and schools, promoting patriotism and military awareness to say thank you to the veterans of past and present and to those still serving in Iraq," Sgt. 1st Class Reese said.

Unlike other veterans service organizations, members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart are strictly combat veterans who have received the medal.

Family members or veterans who do not have the medal can join the Purple Heart auxiliary organization.

Purple Heart recipients who would like to join the Aiken chapter can contact Clarence Palmer at (803) 215-5442.

Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or michelle.guffey@augustachronicle.com.

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