James Otto Presented With a Special Purple Heart
James Otto still sounds very humbled and more than a bit shocked that a U.S. Marine gave him his Purple Heart medal. The Purple Heart, of course, is awarded in the name of the President to those injured or killed in service.
It all started on October 15 when James saw the Marine, with whom he's spoken with before, at his Dallas show. When the two last met, James invited him on his tour bus to chat.
"He was really moved by the song 'In Color' and he had given me his POW hat with his Iraq campaign medal and his Afghanistan campaign medal," James tells The Boot of the serviceman who prefers to remain anonymous. "He had been wounded and a prisoner-of-war for 18 months. People don't really realize how many guys out there have been wounded or taken hostage and been through those nightmares."
James, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, says he empathizes with the emotional toll taken on those who serve, and the toll taken on their families as well. That's one reason he performs 'In Color,' made famous by Jamey Johnson, and co-wrote 'Soldiers and Jesus,' which is a song about the only two people who've ever offered to lay down their lives for another.
"When I sang 'Soldiers and Jesus' [at the Dallas show], he ended up saluting me through the whole song," said James of the fan. "It really touched me that it meant something to him."
When the two chatted later, the Marine handed James a Purple Heart and asked him to keep it.
"I said, 'I can't take this. Why are you giving this to me? I don't deserve this. This is yours,'" James says he told the veteran. "He said he had several and wanted me to have it...I'm really honored and I'll be proud to keep it for the rest of my life."
At the Dallas show, as in past shows, other veterans threw their military dog tags on the stage to James.
"When I wrote 'Soldiers and Jesus," I loved the song but I debated whether I was the right guy to deliver it. My wife and others pushed me to cut the song because they said, 'You know how closely you're related to the military,'" says James. "The truth and heart of the message rings true to me especially the line 'one fights for my life and one fights for my soul.'
"I am a Christan man who served in the military myself. When things like this happen, I know the song is reaching the guys it should reach."