CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – January 27, 2016 – A Marine Corps recruiter was awarded the Purple Heart medal during a ceremony in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Jan. 26, 2016.
Sergeant DeMonte R. Cheeley was presented the medal by Brig. Gen. Terry V. Williams, the Commanding General of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., and Eastern Recruiting Region, for injuries he sustained during a July 16, 2015 attack in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at the Armed Forces Career Center where he works.
“I can’t take anything away from the five brave men who paid the ultimate sacrifice, I will wear this in honor of those men and every recipient before me,” said Cheeley. “I can only move forward from here and continue to recruit the future of the Marine Corps.”
Cheeley was injured in his leg when a shooter opened fire on the building and the recruiters working there. The shooter went on to attack a local Navy Reserve Center where he fatally wounded four Marines and one sailor. The shooter was later killed by Chattanooga police responding to the attack. Cheeley was hospitalized and later recovered from the injury.
An investigation conducted by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service determined the attack had been inspired by a foreign terrorist group making Cheeley eligible for the Purple Heart medal.
The five service members killed in the attacks, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire D. ‘Skip’ Wells, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, will be posthumously awarded the Purple Heart medal during separate ceremonies requested by their families.
“Words can’t explain the feelings and impact that tragic day had on the Recruiting office, and Reserve Station,” Staff Sgt. Robert Driver, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of the Marine recruiting office where Cheeley was shot. “I am proud to see the Marines receive what they rightfully deserve. We are continuing with recruiting efforts, never forgetting the five service men who paid the ultimate sacrifice here on our home front.”