August 7 was Purple Heart Day, and Milwaukee hosted a special commemoration at the War Memorial Center in honor of those wounded and killed in service to our country.

The “Purple Heart Day of Honor 2021” was held on Friday, August 6 in the Veterans Courtyard. Purple Heart recipient and Vietnam veteran George Banda welcomed members of the community to the annual ceremony, and introduced keynote speaker, Purple Heart recipient and Iraq War veteran Dan Newberry.

The Purple Heart Medal is awarded in the name of the President to members of the armed forces of the United States who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy, and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.

Newberry enlisted in the U.S. Army at 19-years-old and became a paratrooper. When he was medically discharged in 2012 at 28, he left the military with a Purple Heart from his second tour in Iraq. In 2019, Newberry joined the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation as co-director of the organization’s Veterans Business Outreach Center. He also serves as executive director of Lift For The 22 – in honor of the 22 veterans that commit suicide everyday. The nonprofit is dedicated to helping veterans transition from military service to civilian life by focusing on fitness and fellowship.

“While preparing my comments, I often looked down at my hand. It’s a tattoo of the day I received the Purple Heart. It’s a solemn reminder of the day I lost a brother. With every glance I question, why me? Why am I here and Carillo is not? Often times I’m filled with guilt, and at times, it is an unbearable weight to carry. The Purple Heart is the award that nobody wants. It’s a token of the realities of war. So I ask, how is it possible that after nearly 243 years our nation remains free? The answer is sitting here among us today. It is the reason we have gathered today. It is because of the oath many men and women have been willing to make, knowing that at anytime they could make the ultimate sacrifice. Our service members understand the price. They understand that it is more than about sacrificing time away from family and friends, that they will never get back. Birthdays, anniversaries, other major family milestones. It’s the unspoken price. The cost is sometimes greater than most of us will ever know. Unless you bare the weight of the Purple Heart.” – Dan Newberry

Iowa Gold Star parents Patty and Maliphone Sourivong also laid a wreath in honor of Sergeant Kampha Sourivong. Their 20-year-old son was killed in Iraq on September 30, 2006, while serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom with the Iowa Army National Guard.

Also laying a wreath were Shirley and Fernando Rodriguez – a Marine, Vietnam War veteran, and Purple Heart recipient. In December 1969 Lance Corporal Rodriguez was securing a perimeter near a Vietnamese village at night when he was shot at close range by a Viet Cong guerilla. Rodriguez is State Secretary of the Wisconsin American GI Forum and a retired Wisconsin Veterans Service Officer.