United States Marine Corps Cpl. Adam Curcuru marched across the Kyrouz Auditorium stage Friday, halting between an American Flag and a USMC flag and turning to face the lieutenant colonel and sergeant major who would, in a moment, pin a Purple Heart badge to Curcuru’s grey suit.
The 25-year-old Curcuru earned the Purple Heart after suffering an injury in Afghanistan, during one of two tours of duty. Over the course of a deployment in war-torn Marjah, Curcuru six times found himself in military vehicles rocked by improvised explosive devices. It was in one of those incidents, that Curcuru suffered concussions.
Curcuru returned home from his four-year military career in 2010 and never expected a Purple Heart award — especially since the military, until recently, did not recognize concussions as a Purple Heart category injury.
Then, about a year ago, Curcuru received a newsletter that encouraged Marines with head injuries resulting from war to step forward through the chain of command and seek out the award, as a change in policy.
“It’s a new thing that they’ve really looked into,” Curcuru said of the policy change. “You’re talking at about thousands of guys affected.”
At first, Curcuru hesitated to apply, and planned not to until a friend convinced him to seek the award.
“I felt like it was kind of seeking it. I didn’t want to go seek it,” Curcuru said. “But one of my friends kept telling me to do it.”
And, in front of more friends and family Friday afternoon, Curcuru stood proudly as Lt. Col. David M. Fallon shared words privately with Curcuru on stage before pinning on the purple heart-shaped medal with an engraving of George Washington’s face.
As Curcuru left the stage, his daughters Kajsa, 7, and Kiara, 3, wearing identical red holiday dresses with gold-trimmed dots, ran toward him.
“I’m really proud of my dad,” Kajsa squeaked, then snuggled up to her dad’s leg.
The group of family and friends stood, applauding Curcuru and snapping photos and video as he reached for his wife Janessa.
Toni Camille Curcuru, Curcuru’s mother, tears in her eyes, said the ceremony reminded her of the closing of Curcuru’s boot camp, when the then new marine made a point to walk over to his grandfather, also a marine, and salute his elder. Curcuru had always admired his grandfather and his grandfather’s service had inspired young Curcuru to join the Marines himself.
“It was just like this moment,” Toni Curcuru said. “There’s a real special bond between them. He models his life as a man after my dad.”
Now, Curcuru is focusing on family and school. In May, Curcuru will graduate from Salem State University, having earned two bachelors degrees, one in business administration, the other in political science, with a minor in economics.
He plans to become a Veterans Affairs representative so he can help others make their transition home.
“It was just the right influences making sure everything went smoothly,” Curcuru said. “I want to keep that going.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.