(NewsNation) — Shannon Matthews of Burnsville, Minnesota, has dedicated much of his life to giving back to veterans, investing in their success and education.
The retired U.S. Army corporal and Oklahoma State University-Tulsa alumnus is the first living veteran to donate his Purple Heart to an institution of higher learning.
“A lot of people have heard of the Purple Heart. But a lot of people have not actually seen a Purple Heart,” Matthews said during an appearance on “Morning in America.”
The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded to those wounded or killed while serving with the U.S. military.
On display at his alma mater, the gift of his Purple Heart is emblematic of a life lived in service.
Matthews, who grew up in Tulsa, served in the Oklahoma Army National Guard for four years before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1992.
While serving as part of Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti in 1994, Matthews was wounded in close combat. Along with his Purple Heart, Matthews earned numerous commendations for his service, including the Air Assault Badge, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and the Southeast Asia Service Medal.
Matthews is now giving back to his community, having established a scholarship at Tulsa community college in Oklahoma for older veterans pursuing higher education.
“That’s a $1,000 scholarship and it’s for older vets that served before 9/11,” he said. “Because when you get older, the benefits are not there. And it was my chance to give back and show appreciation to vets that came before us.”
Matthews recognizes the stigma negative stereotypes can have on a veteran.
“There’s a lot of vets in society who are doing positive things,” he said. “Before you judge a veteran, listen to him first. Because we vet our people, too; and give us a chance.”