CAMP PENDLETON -- Bob Bobst couldn't hold back tears as he glanced toward the newly unveiled Purple Heart monument at the 5th Marine Regiment headquarters.
"It brings back a lot of memories," the 90-year-old World War II Navy veteran said. "A lot of men that were my friends died."
Bobst, of San Clemente, served as a Navy corpsman from 1943 to 1946. He fought to save Marines in campaigns at Peleliu Island, Okinawa and New Britain and received a Purple Heart after being hit by a Japanese hand grenade in 1945.
On Wednesday, he was the first of six Purple Heart recipients to hang a flower lei on the new monument dedicated to those who bled in combat or died in the defense of the country.
The others were Sgt. Major Marty Vasquez, who served in Korea and was wounded in Vietnam in 1966; Capt. Steve Colwell, wounded in Vietnam in 1967; 1st Sgt. Deandre Gillian, wounded in 2010 during combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom; 1st Sgt. Brian Holloway, who was wounded during combat in Iraq in 2004 during Operation Enduring Freedom; and Gunnery Sgt. Jorge Delgado, who was wounded in Operation Enduring Freedom in 2010.
The Vermont granite monument -- the idea of Col. Kenneth Kassner, commanding officer of the 5th Marine Regiment -- was dedicated at the 5th Marines Memorial Park and Garden. The 5th Marine Regiment is the Marine Corp's most decorated infantry regiment.
"There is no more appropriate place to commemorate the valor and self-sacrifice of our regiment's combat fallen and wounded than here on these hallowed grounds of our Fightin' 5th Memorial Park and Garden," Kassner, a two-time Purple Heart recipient, said during the ceremony.
The Purple Heart is the nation's oldest and most recognized award. It was first introduced as the Badge of Military Merit by Gen. George Washington in 1782, and reintroduced on Feb. 22, 1932 -- the 200th anniversary of Washington's birthday.
The dedication included dozens of veterans who received the valor award, their families and friends. Gold Star parents -- Jim and Carla Hogan of San Clemente -- were also recognized. The couple's son, Lance Cpl. Donald, J. Hogan, who served with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, was killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 26, 2009.
"We know a lot of combat-wounded, and it's heartwarming to see them recognized for a sacrifice that lasts a lifetime," said Carla Hogan.
The $20,000 monument was paid for by the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group and dedicated in the memorial park and garden created and maintained by the group. It has taken two years to complete it.
Kassner said it was on one of his visits to the garden that he realized the other two monuments there are dedicated only to the fallen.
"Whether the brutal beach landings across the Solomon or Gilbert Islands of the Pacific Ocean; the subzero temperatures of Yudam-ni and Haguru-ri in North Korea; or the often unforgiving arid regions of Iraq and Afghanistan, we recognize that all our veterans have given something of themselves to this country and some have given all by laying down their lives to defend the freedoms we as Americans hold so dear," Kassner said.
The new monument is flanked by a monument to Operation Iraqi Freedom that was dedicated and sponsored by the Dana Point support group in 2009 and a monument to Operation Enduring Freedom unveiled in 2013 supported by the Dana Point group and the cities of Laguna Hills, Rancho Santa Margarita and San Clemente.
Kassner saluted the regiment's Vietnam veterans in attendance.
"Your generation of fighters has ensured that today's warriors, whether combat-wounded or not, receive the gratitude and support grossly absent during the years in which you faithfully served our great country," he said.
He also reached out to families and friends of the wounded.
"Our gratitude and respect for our regiment's combat casualties and their families must stand the test of time," he said. "To that end, our Fighting 5th Purple Heart monument will forever serve as a powerful testament that 'All gave some ... and some gave all.'"