Tribute wall builder receives Purple Heart from veteran

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jay Humphrey, 70, has been working night and day for a month to complete his wall of remembrance at 143rd Ave. and Indian Springs Rd.

Hundreds have come to write tribute messages for the veterans they love.

Mark Lopez from Chandler, a retired Army sergeant could not make it to the wall because he has a new baby and is a full-time student. 

He decided to have 3TV deliver Humphrey an extraordinary token of his appreciation, his Purple Heart.

Lopez, who works at Casa Reynoso Mexican Restaurant in Tempe said, "What he is doing is huge. Anything that can make a veteran smile is huge. I saw him on 3TV and I just thought wow this guy is selfless service and that is one of the most important things of being in the military."

Lopez did two tours of duty in Iraq and in 2003 was injured by a rocket-propelled grenade. After seeing the new tribute wall on TV, he decided the man who built it deserved the medal.

So he and his young family sent Humphrey his Purple Heart and a video message thanking him for helping veterans feel like they are not alone.

When Humphrey, who has not served in the military, received the Purple Heart he started to cry, "Oh my goodness I don't deserve this but I'll accept it and treasure it forever. It's just the greatest opportunity that a human has ever had to say thank you to the men and women in the military all away from home."

"On the back of this Purple Heart it says 'FOR MILITARY MERIT.' It made me think of that gentleman," said Lopez.

"That is the largest compliment I've got in my entire life that I'm ever going to get in my life," said Humphrey.

Sgt. Lopez lost four company commanders in Iraq. He requested that Humphrey write their names on the wall. Those names are now on the wall along with the name, "Sgt. Mark Lopez."

The Up By Their Bootstraps tribute wall is right on the way to Phoenix International Raceway. Humphrey is hoping it will be filled with names by Veterans Day.