Veteran Donates Purple Heart to OSU-Tulsa

Courtesy photo
HONORABLE EVENT: From left, Mitch Reed, legislative ambassador for the State of Oklahoma Purple Heart Association, along with interim senior vice president for OSU-Tulsa Chris Benge and CPL Shannon Matthews.

U.S. Army Corporal (CPL) and Oklahoma State University-Tulsa alumnus Shannon Matthews donated his Purple Heart to OSU-Tulsa recently in a limited in-person ceremony on campus.

“This was the first time in the Purple Heart’s existence that a living veteran has donated their medal to any institution,” Matthews said. “A lot of people know about the Purple Heart, but how many people have seen one? OSU-Tulsa provided me with the opportunity to show the world what I have. Now I want to give something back to OSU-Tulsa.”

Matthews, who grew up in Tulsa, graduated from Nathan Hale High School and served in the Oklahoma Army National Guard for four years before enlisting in the U.S. Army in April 1992. While serving as part of Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti in 1994, Matthews was stabbed in the leg by an enemy combatant in close-contact fighting. 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.

“First let me congratulate Shannon,” said Oklahoma National Guard Adjutant General Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Mancino, speaking to the audience at the ceremony. “We always think you do the service for a high and mighty reason – and that may be why you got in. But at the end of the day, men and women are fighting for their brothers and sisters to their left and to their right. And I know Shannon, that was part of your service as well.”

Following his time in the military, Matthews decided he needed to complete his bachelor’s degree. He enrolled in OSU-Tulsa while he continued to work and raise his daughter. At one point in his education, he felt like giving up – but one of his professors gave him the push he needed to keep at it.
Matthews completed his bachelor’s degree in business at OSU-Tulsa in 2001 and was recognized as a “Who’s Who Among American Colleges and Universities.” He went on to work with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Army Recruiting Command, and Army Reserve Contracting Agency before retiring from the Army Corps of Engineers in 2012. He has dedicated much of his life to giving back to veterans and investing in the success of Tulsans, establishing the Shannon L. Matthews Veterans Scholarship at Tulsa Community College in 2010.

“When you think of symbols of service and sacrifice, few are more sacred than the Purple Heart,” said Chris Benge, interim senior vice president for OSU-Tulsa. “As I learned about Shannon Matthews in preparation for this event, it became apparent that this gift is emblematic of a life lived in service. Matthews has dedicated much of his life to giving back to veterans and investing in the success of Tulsans, and through this gift to OSU-Tulsa, he will continue to inspire students through his example of service and dedication.”

The Purple Heart is on display in the OSU-Tulsa Student Union inside North Hall. A recording of the live-stream of the ceremony can be found on OSU-Tulsa’s Facebook page.