On Tuesday morning, a group of men will gather at the Ohio Air National Guard Base south of Springfield.
They are members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 620, and they earned entrance into that distinguished organization the hard way: They were wounded in combat. As the organizations’s website describes, the “Purple Heart is awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.”
“The organization now known as the ‘Military Order of the Purple Heart’ was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all who have received the decoration. Composed exclusively of Purple Heart recipients, it is the only veterans service organization comprised strictly of ‘combat’ veterans.”
The medal itself dates back to 1782. Recognizing that “faithful service and outstanding acts of bravery went unrecognized and unrewarded,” George Washington was determined to end that. So from his headquarters perched 80 feet above the Hudson, he issued a general order establishing the ‘Badge of Distinction’ and ‘Badge of Merit’.
The mission of the Military Order of the Purple Heart is to foster an environment of goodwill and camaraderie among combat wounded veterans, promote patriotism, support necessary legislative initiatives, and most importantly, provide service to all veterans and their families.
Aug. 7 is also very special to the members, for it is National Purple Heart Day, commemorating the day the medal was first issued.
But there’s a good chance you will see them just about any day of the year, adorned in purple hats, blazers, ties or jackets.
Another visible reminder of their service and sacrifice is the Purple Heart Monument located in Veterans Park next to the Springfield Post Office. While hundreds of people pass by that site everyday, few stop and take note of the monument that has been there since 2005.
But it is worth taking a few minutes to read the inscription and to consider those the monument honors and their sacrifice for the freedom we enjoy today.
While the service of these men spans the spectrum of recent wars, it hasn’t stopped there. They continue to be active in the community and beyond. Their recent projects include the “Purple Heart Way” signs along North Fountain Avenue in Springfield and the War Dog Memorial in nearby Veterans Park. Chapter members are also frequently seen participating in the various local parades, festivals and other events. They provide volunteer service to other veterans’ organizations and they frequently speak to students and others about their experiences and the importance of recognizing veterans and active-duty personnel for their service and sacrifice.
I have have had the privilege on several occasions of interviewing them, hearing the stories about the day they were wounded and the impact that and their military service has had on the rest of their lives.
I am truly honored to know these men and am humbled to be in their presence.
Congratulations to them as they prepare to observe their special day. And thank you to them for their past and continued service to our nation and to our community