Washington (CNN) -- Some Marine Corps families, mourning a son or daughter killed in action, received an unexpected surprise for the holidays: an ornament of the Purple Heart, a letter addressed to their fallen hero and even information about athletic reconditioning.
The Marine Corps was apologizing Tuesday for sending the packages to families of the fallen instead of the Marines wounded in action but still alive.
"There are no words to express how very sorry we are for the hurt such a mistake has caused the families of our fallen warriors," said Col. John L. Mayer, commanding officer of the Marines Wounded Warrior Regiment. "We always strive to honor the sacrifices these Marines, sailors and their families gave to this country."
Mayer, alerted to the problem when families began phoning in Monday, said there was no excuse for what happened.
"We accept full responsibility for this error and are moving quickly to reach out to the families we have affected," he said in a statement. "This initiative was meant to thank combat-wounded Marines and sailors for their service."
Mayer is calling some of the families who telephoned after they received the packages in error and all will receive a letter of apology.
More than 9,000 were sent out, but 1,150 went out to families of the Marines who had died.