Congressman, local veterans team up to ensure veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice will forever be remembered
Congressman Brian Higgins joined local veterans, including members of the Vietnam Veterans of America and Military Order of the Purple Heart, to announce the addition of 280 names of Vietnam veterans from Western New York who were killed in action to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor.
"This is truly an incredible undertaking led by veterans on a mission to remember their own," Higgins said Friday. "We are honored to assist the effort to forever memorialize the service and sacrifices of these fallen Western New York service members."
In 2007, local Vietnam veterans initiated a project to recognize fellow Western New York soldiers killed in action. The process of verifying military service and submitting names to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor was challenging, so veterans leading the project reached out to Higgins' office for assistance. United States Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran Jack Michel pioneered the project with the support of fellow Vietnam War veterans Dr. Patrick Welch and Al Brusetti.
These veterans, working with Higgins, have successfully added the names of 280 fallen soldiers to the Purple Heart Hall of Honor, the largest number of names ever submitted at once.
"Vietnam veterans were shown little or no support when we came home and we felt it was time to honor those who gave their lives for their country and to show the respect we all deserved so many years ago," said Michel, a USMC Vietnam War veteran.
The Purple Heart is awarded to soldiers who have been injured or killed in action against the enemy while serving with the U.S. Armed Services. Gen. George Washington established the original Purple Heart, first designated the "Badge of Military Merit," in 1782.
The event was held at the Purple Heart Memorial along the Walk of Heroes at the Buffalo Naval & Military Park on Aug. 7 (National Purple Heart Day). The monument was dedicated in 2010 thanks to the efforts of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Buffalo Chapter 187.
On May 24, 2002 the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor was established in New Windsor. The Hall of Honor includes a searchable website available to the public (www.thepurpleheart.com).
Anita Pidala, director of the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor said, "The NPHHOH's mission is to collect, preserve and share the stories of Purple Heart recipients. The Roll of Honor, an electronic database of Purple Heart recipients, is the primary way in which we share that information. It is a work in progress as there is no comprehensive list of recipients to draw. We rely on recipients, their families and friends, as well as other supportive individuals to help us build the Roll of Honor. We are especially thankful to Congressman Higgins and his staff for their efforts in helping to bring recognition to 280 Western New York Purple Heart recipients from Vietnam. This is particularly important at this time, as this year is the 40th anniversary of the end of the United States mission in Vietnam. We hope that the efforts of Congressman Higgins's office will inspire others to help us honor and recognize Purple Heart recipients for their service and sacrifice. "
Several members of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 77 and the Military Order of the Purple Heart Buffalo Chapter 187 and Niagara Falls Chapter 264 participated in the announcement including: Michel, past VP of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 77; Welch, USMC service officer and past president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 77; Brusetti, U.S. Army, past president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 77; Ken Speaker, Army, commander for the Buffalo Chapter 187 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart; Russ Ward, Army, third vice commander for the Buffalo Chapter 187 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart; Robert Segool, USMC, chaplain for the Buffalo Chapter 187 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart; Ronald Krul, Army, adjutant of the Niagara Falls Chapter 264 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart; and Michael Targon, USMC, commander of the Niagara Falls Chapter 264 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Welch said, "On this day, National Purple Heart Day, we recognize 280 members of our community who gave all they had in the service of our country during the Vietnam War. This project of eight years, led by Jack Michel, is the largest single induction of Purple Heart Recipients into The Purple Heart Hall of Honor since it was created. We hope other communities will get involved and honor their service members."
More than 350,000 Purple Hearts were awarded for Vietnam Veterans alone. Nearly 60,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam and 150,000 more were wounded.
If you have a family member who has received a Purple Heart and you are interested in entering their name into the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, visit the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor's website at www.thepurpleheart.com or call 845-561-1765.