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Local retired Marine receives two Purple Hearts

California, MD- A Lexington Park man and retired Marine Staff Sergeant was honored on Friday, March 10 at the California VFW Post 2632 with two Purple Hearts for two separate combat related injuries while serving in Afghanistan in 2011.

Staff Sgt Thomas Whorl enlisted in the Marines in 1999 and was medically retired in 2013 for the wounds he received. He was stationed with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines out of Camp Lejeune, NC.

“On March 11, 2011 I was in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan when I was next to one of my men who stepped on an IED (Improvised explosive device). I suffered a traumatic brain injury and injured my back.” Whorl recalled. Just nine days later, he was injured again. “March 20, 2011 my platoon sergeant was inside of a building and he stepped on an IED and I was near him when that happened and suffered another concussion, worsening my traumatic brain injury.”

Whorl said he wasn’t supposed to go out that soon after being injured the first time, “I went anyway because it was a big mission and I needed to be out there.” Despite those back to back injuries, Whorl finished his tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Once he returned home, Whorl started seeking treatment for his injuries and was moved to a Wounded Warrior Battalion at Camp Lejeune. He said his injuries still cause problems today. “I suffer from memory loss, insomnia, headaches, migraines that put me in the hospital. In my back, my C1-C6 vertebrae are all crushed together with three bulging discs.”

Whorl is 100 percent disabled and receiving support from Veterans Affairs (VA) to help with his ongoing medical problems. He only learned a month ago he would be honored with two Purple Hearts. “It’s bittersweet—it’s weird to be recognized for being injured in combat. People are worse off than I am and I had Marines who died.” While he says he takes pride in the honor, it’s not about himself or his sacrifice. “When I look at that Purple Heart, I don’t think of myself, I think about my men. I take pride in it more for men who didn’t make it home. I think about my men who did live and I brought them home. It’s not about what I did, it’s about my men.”

Whorl, who was a sergeant when he was injured, received a combat meritorious promotion to Staff Sergeant. Despite the men who were lost and the injuries he suffered, he said he’d do it all again. “I don’t regret anything I did over there. I don’t regret any decisions I made over there. Even knowing what I know now, I’d still go back.”

Thank you for your service and sacrifice, Staff Sgt Whorl.

Contact Joy Shrum at j.shrum@thebaynet.com

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