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Purple Heart Veterans Share Stories For Library Of Congress

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As the nation honors wounded and fallen military personnel for Purple Heart Day, several veterans sat down to retell their war stories so they can be recorded in the Library of Congress.

Members of the National Court Reporters Association volunteered their time to transcribe the stories of eight Purple Heart recipients in Chicago as they have for thousands of others in the last 13 years.

"Since 2003, court reporters have transcribed just about 4,000 oral histories that are now part of the Library of Congress," said B.J. Shorak, deputy director of the National Court Reporters Association.

Vietnam veteran Tom Vargas, of Palos Hills, was only 19 when he became the sole survivor of an attack in Khe Sanh in 1969.

"The medic was trying to jump out of the tank, but I'm trying to get him back in, and I end up grabbing his foot, and then I just had his foot, that's all. He got blown away," he said.


Fellow Vietnam veteran Ken Laforge, of Antioch, recalled being in a tank in the Binh Tuy province in Vietnam on April 18, 1970, when it was hit by a rocket propelled grenade.

Laforge and John Domina, of Tinley Park, are still close friends 46 years after they served together; and they told their story together of how they both received a Purple Heart.

"I busted an eardrum, and John broke two of them, but I thought the back of my head was blown off," Laforge said.

Laforge and Domina said they're proud of earning their Purple Hearts, and glad people are interested in their stories, because no one was when they came home from Vietnam.

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