Milwaukee veterans joined elected officials across the nation on August 7, on the 235th anniversary of the Purple Heart, to remember those who have served the nation with great sacrifice and valor.
The Purple Heart is different from all other military awards because an individuals are not recommended for the decoration. They are entitled upon meeting the specific criteria, which is being wounded during action with an enemy of the United States.
Jim Duff, Director of Milwaukee County Veterans Services (MCVSO), honored local recipients of the Purple Heart at the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center with a proclamation from Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele that declared August 7, 2017 to be Purple Heart Day.
“I encourage everyone to thank a veteran for their service, whether they are a stranger on the sidewalk, a friend, or a family member,” said County Executive Abele in a statement. “Please also talk to your children or grandchildren about the importance of recognizing those who have served and the vital role they have played in securing and protecting the freedoms we have here at home.”
The Purple Heart is our nation’s oldest military award created by General George Washington on August 7, 1782 during the Revolutionary War. Originally called the ‘Badge of Military Merit,’ the Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the President of the United States to courageous service men and women who have been wounded, kiIIed in action, dіеd as a result of being wounded in combat, victims of friendly fire, kiIIed in an act of tеrrоrіsm, or otherwise designated by the President of the United States. Around 1.8 million veterans have been awarded the medal since it was created.
In 2013, County Executive Abele and Director Duff created the first-of-its-kind Purple Heart Pass (PHP) that allows Purple Heart Veterans from Wisconsin free admission into a number of private and public attractions, including the Milwaukee County Zoo, Discovery World, and the Harley Museum. MCVSO administers the pass and verifies eligibility through military service records.
“The Purple Heart Pass is a unique program that honors the service and sacrifice of Wisconsin’s Purple Heart recipients, which number somewhere in the area of 1,800 to 2,000 veterans,” said Duff. “We have issued 594 passes to date.”
The Purple Heart veterans in Wisconsin come from 39 of the 72 counties, and have served in conflicts ranging from World War II to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of the recipients were awarded the medal posthumously.
“It’s a medal no one wants,” said William Goralski, who was awarded two Purple Hearts. “No one wants to get hurt, and no one wants to get kiIIed.”
Celebrated as an American hero for his service in Vietnam, Milwaukee native George Banda has always been uncomfortable with any titles of honor. In a reflection of his humility for being awarded the Silver Star and Bronze Star as an Army Medic, he says he was just doing the job our country trained him for. But of all his medals, the one that has weighed most heavily on his heart was colored purple.
“I’m fortunate to be awarded those other medals,” Banda said. “But those were given to me for doing what I was trained to do. They do mean something, but the Purple Heart is the most important medal for me, because it means sacrifice and loss. Being awarded the Purple Heart, something terrible happened. Something very bad. You were either wounded or killed. That’s what a purple heart stands for.”
Banda talked about his injury, that resulted when a bullet grazed the left side of his head. But for all his honors, he was more reflective on the real heroes he knew. Many of them were not lucky enough to be honored with medals, because they never left the battlefield, like his good friend from Milwaukee Ed Vesser.
“We can never fully repay the men and women who have risked their lives in service of our nation’s safety and freedom,” added County Executive Abele.