Tennessee veteran encourages others to enroll in Purple Heart Patriot Project ahead of honorary trip


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Knoxville Army veteran has been chosen to represent Tennessee’s Purple Heart recipients as part of the 2021 Purple Heart Patriot Project. Robert “Buzz” Buswell will take a trip to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor at West Point later this year.

Buswell has faced and overcome many challenges in his life. He uses those life experiences now to help other veterans like himself. Buswell said his decision to join the military was an easy one.

“I entered the service [on] the 17th of June 1968, went through basic and advanced training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and then I went on to the infantry school for officer candidate school at Fort Benning, Georgia,” he explained.

Just like his father and uncles, going into the military was a family affair, but his time serving was cut short.

“I went to Vietnam, I got there in January of 1970 and I got wounded on the 4th of June 1970, and I spent the next 19 months in the hospital,” Buswell said.

“The bullet that hit me in the back when I was going into the helicopter, if my head had been in a different position, (it) would have gone right through my head and here I am. So I kept asking why.”

Buswell was awarded a Purple Heart while in his hospital bed for his service and sacrifice. Along with his Purple Heart, he was awarded numerous medals for his service.

He underwent 27 surgeries and had to learn how to walk again. During that time, the question of “why” still haunted him.

“God gives answers, but He doesn’t always give them on your timetable,” Buswell said. “Quite a few of the people that I served with didn’t make it, and so yesterday I remembered men like Al Garcia who was my point man the day that I got wounded.”

Buswell continues to serve his country now as the director of veterans and senior services for Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs.

He also wants other Purple Heart recipients’ stories to continue to be told through the National Purple Heart Roll of Honor. The database provides information about each recipient’s story. If you are a Purple Heart recipient and not registered, you can register here.

“We need to get Purple Heart recipients registered at the National Hall of Honor there in New York,” Buswell said. “The reason that I’m doing this is to encourage other Purple Heart recipients to go ahead and enroll.”

The all-expenses-paid trip for Buswell includes visiting the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Washington’s Headquarters, and a special tour of the newly renovated National Purple Heart Hall of Honor.

Those wishing to learn more about the National Purple Heart Honor Mission or donate to support the Purple Heart Patriot Project should visit www.PurpleHeartMission.org.

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