WASHINGTON - The Marine Corps on Tuesday apologized for mistakenly mailing Purple Heart Christmas tree ornaments to about 1,150 deceased Marines and sailors.
The gold ornaments, with an image of the Purple Heart in the center, were part of a package from the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment that included a letter to the deceased recipient from the regiment's commanding officer as well as a flyer with information about an athletic reconditioning program.
The packages were addressed to the deceased troops.
The Corps said it learned of the error when family members called Monday evening.
"There are no words to express how very sorry we are for the hurt such a mistake has caused the families of our fallen warriors," said Col. John L. Mayer, the regiment's commanding officer. "There is no excuse for why this happened."
A spokeswoman for the regiment, Capt. Jill L. Wolf, said in an interview that by Tuesday 35 families who received the packages had called to point out the error. She said Mayer has begun calling them to apologize. Letters of apology will be sent to all families of the deceased who were included in the mailing.
The tree ornaments were donated by an unspecified charitable organization and were supposed to go to living Marines who had received the Purple Heart since 9/11, as well as sailors who were wounded while attached to or serving in support of Marine Corps units. Nearly 8,000 were mailed, as intended, to living recipients.
Wolf said this is the third year the ornaments have been mailed to Purple Heart recipients. There were no known mailing errors in 2009 or 2010, she said.
The Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment, headquartered at Quantico, Va., provides non-medical care to combat and non-combat wounded, ill and injured Marines, as well as sailors in support of Marine units. The goal is to help them return to military duty or to transition to civilian life.