On what would have been the 75th birthday of Marine Sgt. and Purple Heart recipient Louis S. Sims Sr., about 20 people attended a semiannual ceremony and lunch at an East Waco home Saturday.

Shirley Sims, widow of Louis Sims, said she hosts the recurring event at her home on Carver Avenue to remember Louis and to honor living Purple Heart recipients and surviving spouses of those who have died.

“I don’t want him to be invisible,” Shirley Sims said. “And it keeps my hands busy.”

Louis Sims died at age 73 in October 2015 with multiple health problems after suffering the effects of Agent Orange and post-traumatic stress disorder. His Purple Heart followed a thigh wound suffered during fighting in the Vietnamese city of Chu Lai on Christmas Day 1965 as he was leading a force of 35 men. He returned to duty in Vietnam after his recovery.

When Louis Sims left the military two years later, he also held the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and a Combat Action Ribbon.

Shirley and Louis were married after they met each other while working at Plantation Foods near Gholson Road and Lake Shore Drive.

She holds the celebration of his life by honoring other veterans on his birthday and in October each year.

Guests this year included Eddie Bell, a lifelong Waco resident and two-time Purple Heart recipient who joined the Army in 1961. Before he joined, he was chosen for the all-state football team from A.J. Moore High School. In one action in Vietnam, he was hit in the arm. Sent back to battle after that, he took another bullet in the leg. He continued serving in the Army until 1981, retiring as a sergeant first class.

Korean War veteran Larry Elwell recalled helping 97,000 North Korean refugees board an American ship. He said a bullet from one of two machine guns spraying a bridge hit him and traveled the length of his forearm, a wound that still gives him trouble.

“It was a .30-caliber bullet, though. If it had been .50-caliber, it would have taken my arm off at the shoulder,” Elwell said.

‘We can still serve’

In remarks to the group before lunch, Vietnam veteran Jack Compton recalled that George Washington established the Purple Heart after the American Revolution and said, “We can still serve as we get older.”

“We can encourage our country to pick our battles carefully,” Compton said. “We’re involved in so many wars, and so many young people return with missing limbs and other grievous wounds, and many more are unable to function as well through their lives as well as they could have otherwise.”

Among other guests were Army Staff Sgt. Jacques Vickers and Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Mota, both veterans of recent Middle East actions.

“We want to help make sure children of today who might have no better vision than to play basketball have a better opportunity,” Mota said. “We’re your neighbors. Drop by and see us.”

Several other men and women from local churches sang hymns. Katherine Hayes opened the ceremony with an a cappella rendition of the national anthem.

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