Soldier Receives Purple Heart at Sacred Heart Parish in Bluefield with Family, Congregation Gathered

By Colleen Rowan BLUEFIELD— ”I’m living proof that prayer works,” 23-year-old Sgt. Louis D. Romano said to the crowd gathered at Sacred Heart Parish in Bluefield after receiving the Purple Heart for injuries he sustained in Afghanistan last year. Louis could have had the medal presented to him anywhere, yet he chose his parish church—the place where he and his family received an outpouring of prayers and support. The lifelong member of Sacred Heart, who was shot in the right cheek area Oct. 27, 2007, in Afghanistan, was surrounded by family, friends and fellow parishioners for the afternoon ceremony.   During the ceremony, appropriately held on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, Louis came to stand in front of the altar where retired Command Sgt. Maj. Randal H. Johnson, a friend of the family, presented the prestigious medal to him. This was followed by thunderous applause from those who filled the church who had come to show Louis their support and to welcome home one of their own.   In addressing those present, Louis expressed his appreciation for the many prayers and cards and the support he received from the people of the parish and the Bluefield area and beyond.   He also asked for prayers for those still serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. “I’ve lost friends and there are a lot of friends that aren’t here today,” he said. “I ask that you continue to pray for our friends that are at war.” He then asked for prayers for his mother Cindy Romano who was recently diagnosed with cancer.   Those present were welcomed to the ceremony by Father Paul J. Wharton, pastor of Sacred Heart, who led them in the Pledge of Allegiance. Bevan Eckman posted the colors, Bob McGraw sang the National Anthem and Frank D. Monaco gave a brief history of the Purple Heart. Col. Derrick Swope read the citation for the medal, which was followed by the singing of God Bless America by Shawn Williams. Col. Edward Kornish of Welch, who also served in Afghanistan and was with Louis in the medical helicopter after he was shot, also spoke at the ceremony and said that Louis’ recovery was a blessing. Rev. Mr. Donald M. Hammond, permanent deacon at Sacred Heart, gave a blessing at the end of the ceremony.   While Louis was unconscious and receiving treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, Cindy had to make the decision of where the medal would be presented. When he regained consciousness, Louis agreed that Sacred Heart would be the ideal place to receive this prestigious honor. “We felt so blessed because of all the prayers from all over the diocese,” Cindy said. “We received notes and cards from people from different churches who heard about it. We’re very appreciative of the prayers and concerns that have come out to him. … We had a great amount of strength and peace that God was in control and relied on Him to pull us through.”   “There’s just nothing you can say to express the way, as a mother, you feel when you get a call from the Department of Defense saying, ‘Your son’s been wounded, he’s in critical condition,’” Cindy said. Louis is at outpatient status at Walter Reed. He was home on convalescent leave and to be with his mother, who had undergone surgery and is now receiving chemotherapy. Louis was to return to Walter Reed for a few more months of treatment.   Louis also served in Iraq from December 2004 to December 2005. He then completed leadership courses at Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Jackson, S.C. He was then deployed to Afghanistan in January 2007. “My son is a hero,” Cindy said of Louis’ service to his country. “He did what he needed to do. We need to pray for our military. … Our soldiers are doing the best that they can do. Support them and pray for their safety and their families and loved ones behind.”