Distinguished medal recognizes this Marine’s sacrifice“It took well over an hour for everyone to get through the reception line,” said River Falls native Faron Fuller about the people waiting to greet his son on Sunday in New Richmond, “It (the line) wrapped halfway around the whole Armory.”
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
It took well over an hour for everyone to get through the reception line,” said River Falls native Faron Fuller about the people waiting to greet his son on Sunday in New Richmond, “It (the line) wrapped halfway around the whole Armory.”
A crowd of more than 200 people gathered to see Aaron Fuller, a now-retired Marine Sgt., receive the Purple Heart commendation.
Aaron’s name may sound familiar from a recent Journal story about local woman Bernie Probst, whose grandson Michael was killed in action in Iraq during 2006.
He and Aaron were fellow Marines, close buddies and both stationed in California, with ties to Wisconsin.
Michael had mentioned to Aaron several times that he’d like his friend to come with him to visit Bernie.
On Feb. 14, the 6th anniversary of his friend’s death, Aaron visited Bernie at the Lutheran Home and brought her flowers “from Michael.”
A short time after that, Aaron found out he’d be receiving the Purple Heart.
Faron said the medal arrived by mail at his house in River Falls -- the address Aaron used while serving in the Marines.
The military awards the Purple Heart for acts of heroism, meritorious outstanding service and wounds received in combat -- usually ones that will affect the person the rest of their life.
Aaron sustained serious injuries from a mine-field explosion in 2005 that knocked him out, crushed an ankle and broke his collarbone.
Afterward, he returned to service and to another tour of duty.
He served a total of nearly seven years, including two combat tours in Fallujah during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Faron says he’s sure his son would have been a “lifer” in the Marines, but even after multiple surgeries, his ankle still wasn’t right. Eventually it prompted an honorable and medical discharge from the service.
Not long after, Aaron moved back to Wisconsin with his wife, Monica, and their family of five children.
They bought a home in New Richmond, where everyone gathered to wish him well after the 1 p.m. Purple Heart presentation.
Faron said the ceremony itself lasted about 45 minutes and began with an invocation, the National Anthem, and words from Marine Captain Brandon Pearson. Presenters recounted his son’s service record.
“It was quite overwhelming,” Aaron said. “It was a nice ceremony.”
Besides Aaron’s friends and family, many local military organizations were also on hand for the event.
Among those represented were the Military Police Company, Wahpeton, N.D.; Patriot Guard; VFW Post 10818, New Richmond; American Legion Post 80, New Richmond; Stillwater VFW Post 323; Marine Corps Junior ROTC, Como Park, Minn.; Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 0005; Legion Post 21, River Falls; Scout Troop 140, Hudson; Leathernecks; VFW Post 7929, Amery; Legion Post 169, Amery; FRA Vikings 136; VFW Post 2115, Hudson; Patriot Sons; and the Ninth District VFW commander.
Faron said state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls and New Richmond Mayor Fred Horne also came to honor his son.
“We’re proud of you,” Harsdorf told Aaron. “This is an opportunity to say thank you. We have the freedoms in this country because of people like you.”
Besides the Purple Heart, Aaron’s other decorations include the National Defense Service Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Iraq Campaign Medal (W/2 Stars); Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (2); Combat Action Ribbon (Iraq); Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal (2); Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation; Navy Unit Commendation; Certificate of Commendation; Rifle Expert Badge (3rd Award); and Pistol Expert Badge.
A group of cadets with the Marine Corps Junior ROTC program from Como Park, Minn. presented the colors during Sunday’s ceremony. Faron said their captain wanted them to have the experience of seeing a Purple Heart awarded.
“When he heard about this,” Faron said of the captain, “he wanted his cadets to come and do honor guard.”
He said Aaron, who was apprehensive about all the fanfare, told his dad at the end of a long celebration Sunday that he was glad for it.
After receiving the medal in the mail, Faron had made calls to inquire about a more formal presentation of the honor.
He said he understands that processing these kinds of honors takes a long time but also thought a Presidential citation deserved more recognition. He’s thankful to the New Richmond VFW, which took the project and “ran with it.”
Faron, a resident of River Falls with wife Julie, said he’s lived in town all his life, except for a short stint in the Army and a few years he lived in Baldwin. He said Aaron attended middle school in River Falls.
Aaron’s paternal grandmother, Shirley Fuller, also lives in River Falls, as well as two brothers, two uncles, and a great uncle and aunt.
Virginia Steiner, Aaron’s maternal grandmother, is also a River Falls resident. She said she is extremely proud of Aaron, mentioning several others in the family with military service.
Steiner said she’s just relieved her grandson returned from Iraq in one piece. She moved to River Falls about a year ago and mentions that Aaron’s mom Susan died not long after he graduated high school.
Steiner and her late husband, James, ran Surge Dairy Equipment in Baldwin for 38 years.
Faron said the whole day of the ceremony was wonderful and that Aaron made many new friends.
The Leathernecks took him out for food and drinks, then many of his loved ones gathered at the home Aaron and his family recently bought in New Richmond.
Faron expressed tremendous gratitude to everyone who took time to make the occasion special: “It’s not every day you get the chance to witness this.”