HALFMOON, N.Y. — Officials from the town administration joined with members of the Order of the Purple Heart on Aug. 7 to honor all military service members and veterans who have received the Purple Heart designation.
The annual National Purple Heart Day ceremony drew about 45 people including Malta Town Supervisor Darren O’Connor. Malta and Halfmoon are officially recognized as Purple Heart Towns and share the recognition ceremony by rotating it annually between the two towns.
National Purple Heart Day is an observance that commemorates the creation of the Purple Heart medal in 1782 by then commander-in-chief of the Continental Army George Washington. Today, the designation is a U.S. military medal awarded in the name of the President of the U.S. to those wounded or killed in combat while serving on or after April 5, 1917 with the U.S. military.
Last week’s ceremony included brief remarks from O’Connor, former Halfmoon Councilwoman and now state Sen. Daphne Jordan, Commander of Purple Heart Chapter 46 David Wallingford, Maj. James Covey the Commanding Officer United State Marine Corps Recruiting Station in Albany, and Halfmoon Supervisor Kevin Tollisen.
The ceremony included an invocation, the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem, remarks from town, state, and military officials, the playing of TAPS and a benediction. As part of the ceremony the town dedicated a new bench for the Veteran’s Memorial in the Town Park. The bench honors the Military Order of the Purple Heart and National Purple Heart Day.
“We come together on this day each year to remember, reflect, and pay tribute to those who were killed or wounded for the cause of freedom,” Tollisen said at the start of the ceremony. “Today we honor the men and women who stood up, raised their right hand and swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the U.S. and defend our country against all enemies foreign or domestic.”
In her remarks Jordan recalled casting her vote while a member of the Town Board when the town declared itself a Purple Heart Town.
“The Purple Heart is one of the most revered and esteemed designations awarded,” she said. “When we think about the Purple Heart we think about those who serve in harm’s way to defend America, the selfless soldiers who wear the uniform and always do so with professionalism, patriotism and pride. Today is about honoring those who faced the fire.”
O’Connor noted that in many cases the Purple Heart is not given personally to the military service member themselves but rather to their grieving families.
“If there is anything that focuses are attention, deepens our appreciation for the sacrifices of our killed or wounded military, it is this medal, the Purple Heart” he said.
Covey, a veteran of five deployments to the Middle East, described two personal stories where he awarded members of his command the Purple Heart. One was awarded to Pvt. Brendan Choo, a 17-year-old on his first combat deployment who took shrapnel in the neck. The other was awarded posthumously to Master Sgt. Aaron Torian who stepped on an improvised explosive device.
“That’s what this day is about, a solemn day of sharing such stories of those are amongst us and those who didn’t come home and honoring them, being thankful for their service, and having them here to tell us,” he said. “I feel I’m doing a disservice to those men if I don’t share those stories and keep their memory alive.”
After the ceremony O’Connor explained why Malta sought to become a Purple Heart town.
“You might think it’s just another resolution for the Town Board to take up but it’s more than that, it’s really important that we remember,” he said.
Wallingford received two Purple Hearts as a military forward observer in Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines in the northern part of South Vietnam near the DMZ in 1968 and 1969. A member of the Malta Planning Board, he was instrumental in getting both towns to formally declare themselves Purple Heart Towns.
“We got them to become Purple Heart Towns but the ceremony is something that’s in addition to that,” he said. “We thought it was important to make the day more appropriately recognized as the day for the Purple Heart.”