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Town to honor Purple Heart medal recipients on Aug. 7

Date: 8/6/2015

LONGMEADOW – The town was presented with a plaque from the Western Massachusetts Military Order of the Purple Heart commemorating the Select Board’s decision in August 2014 for the community to adopt a Purple Heart status.

Last year, the board approved the Purple Heart status during its Aug. 18 meeting. This year will mark the town’s first year with a day commemorating Purple Heart veterans on Aug. 7.

Brian Willette, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart in Western Massachusetts, said during the board’s Aug. 3 meeting that the day honors those who have received the Purple Heart Medal, including soldiers wounded during combat as well as individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country with their life.  

He added that 750 cities and towns have become Purple Heart communities across the nation, with about 70 in Massachusetts.     

Willette later told Reminder Publications the Military Order of the Purple Heart in Western Massachusetts began in 2012 and since that time the chapter has been the most active in the Commonwealth.

Besides promoting awareness about Purple Heart veterans, the chapter also contributes to local military organizations, including the Friends of the Springfield Veterans Center, and the USO of Pioneer Valley in Chicopee, Willette said.

“We’ve also collaborated with Vet Air, which is a new local charity that actually flies [veteran hospital] patients right here from out of Westover [Air Reserve Base] to hard to get appointments in places such as White River Junction, VT, or New Haven, CT,” he added.

Willette said the chapter typically donates signs to each community in Western Massachusetts that adopts a Purple Heart status.

“We didn’t donate one here, but we will,” he added.

Veterans’ Services Officer Paul Seifert also presented a $9,000 check to Harold Skelton, an Air Force veteran of the Iraq War from Holyoke and a Wounded Warrior Project alumnus, on behalf of the organization.

The money was raised during the Nov. 8, 2014 Wounded Warrior 5K Run and Walk, which drew at least 500 people as well as hundreds of volunteers.

Selectman Alex Grant said the success of the race in its first two years is a testament to its cause.

“I’ve run this race the last two years, so I come in from this running angle … this is a tremendous race. I’m not aware of another race in Western [Massachusetts] that comes close to it,” Grant added.  

Seifert later said the third annual Longmeadow Wounded Warrior 5K is set for Nov. 7.

He added that last year, the event raised $10,000 in total, $1,000 of which was donated to help create memorial for fallen veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in Chicopee.