A note from CSM Davenport: I originally wrote this before the TRADOC Best Warrior Competition; however, I cannot think of a better time than this weekend to talk about the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, as we pause and reflect on the events of 9/11 and the sacrifices made by our Soldiers and families over the past 15 years.
As summer comes to a close, I thought I would share with you a location I visited with my family during our summer leave. Upfront, I will tell you that traveling with me is not a lot of fun because I prefer to make it up as we go along. It is a well-known fact in my family that I will pull over to check out a site based on a billboard, something heard on the radio or something that pops up on the internet.
Recently we had one of those, “Hey, let’s pull over” events that really made my summer. As we drove through New York, we saw a sign about the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor. I immediately knew that this was something that I wanted my family to experience.
The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is a state facility whose mission it is to collect, preserve and share the stories of Purple Heart recipients from all branches of service and across all conflicts for which the award has been available. The location of the gallery has historical significance as it is the location of Gen. George Washington’s last encampment, as a part of the New Windsor Cantonment, as well as being the site where 137 veterans of World War I were awarded Purple Hearts on Temple Hill, just above the gallery and encampment.
The purpose of the agency’s work is anchored by a powerful sculpture of a wounded Soldier being carried to safety by two comrades. Inside the gallery, artifact cases highlight the changing nature of warfare, combatants and medical care. The theme “Every Purple Heart has a Story to Tell” is represented by personal story cases of recipients as well as by stories told in other themed displays. The theme “From Battlefield to Care” is told in the words of recipients, covering battlefield injuries to coming home.
The Roll of Honor is a database of Purple Heart recipients representing all wars for which the award has been available. While it is estimated that over 1.8 million awards have been presented since the creation of the Purple Heart, the database contains less than 10 percent of recipients.
All enrollments are voluntary and made by the recipient, their family or friends. I might mention that the Roll of Honor is viewable both in the gallery and online. The version in the gallery allows for a total of six screens per recipient. The profiles can contain pictures as well as written narratives of the recipient’s experience. The online version is an abbreviated single commemoration page for each recipient.
So why am I writing about this? First, I am impressed by the team’s commitment to collect the stories of all the men and women who have been injured in the service of their country. The Hall of Honor has recorded the valor of men and women based on date of incident from April 6, 1862, to Aug. 24, 2016, during my visit, but the data base grows daily as they receive new enrollments.
I also had a chance to walk through the gallery and speak with a Soldier, who was there with his family. Medically retired, he wanted to show his children his entry into the Hall of Honor. When he discovered I was a command sergeant major on active duty, he asked me to get the word out about the work taking place there, and how he imagined it would help others if they knew that this Hall existed. Based on this Soldier’s request and the staff’s great work at the gallery, how could I not tell you about the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor?
Information on enrolling can be found at www.thepurpleheart.com, or by calling 845-561-1765.