Healing process continues for veteran
By RANDY GONZALES
WaKEENEY — The healing process continues for Wayne Purinton, who was a speaker Monday at Memorial Day services at Kansas Veterans Cemetery.
Purinton, a 1965 graduate of Trego Community High School, joined the Army and served as an infantryman during the Vietnam War from 1967 to 1968.
After he left the service, Purinton still was haunted by the memories of his fallen comrades, including one in particular. In 1996,
Purinton discovered he was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Purinton wrote letters home while he served in Vietnam, and those letters formed the basis of a book he wrote, "Journey Back from Vietnam: One Soldier's Long Road Home from War."
Purinton also is part of a project to return to Vietnam to help build schools in the country. He is making his fifth trip back next year.
"It's been a very healing experience to go back, and help rebuild a country that was devastated by the war," Purinton said. It's just healing to my soul."
Purinton's sergeant, Lee Danielson, was killed in a firefight.
"Jan. 12, 1968, is a day I will never forget," Purinton said.
Danielson's death hit Purinton hard, even long after he was back in the United States, and back in civilian life.
In 1990, the moving wall Vietnam Memorial was in Ness City. Purington went to see it, to see Danielson's name.
"I was not prepared for what happened next," Purinton said. "It was like opening up a floodgate" of emotions.
Purinton had debated for years whether to contact Danielson's family in Wisconsin. Finally, in 2001, he met the family and visited his buddy's grave.
"I realized in all those years I never had a chance to grieve for Lee," Purinton said.
Now, finally, Purinton is at peace with his friend's death.
Danielson's name is etched on panel 34D, row 35, on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.
And it's etched in Purinton's heart forever.
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U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran also spoke at Monday's services. Moran was here nine years ago at the dedication of the veterans' cemetery, one of four in Kansas.
"I'm glad to be back, and I'm glad to join you as we do something very important today, pay our respects and honor those who served our country," he said. "Too often we lament we don't have heroes ... Our heroes are among us.
"We don't have to look to the baseball diamonds or football fields ... the heroes are among us, the teachers, the custodian, the people you see every day who made a decision to make certain we pass on to the next generation the freedoms and liberties granted by our constitution."