National Purple Heart Day was observed on Sunday, Aug. 7 and area residents were able to mark the occasion by attending the valley’s 6th annual Purple Heart Day Sundown Ceremony.
Welcoming a crowd several dozen strong was Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #10054 Commander Steve Kennard.
“Purple Heart Day, which is celebrated every August 7, is a day designed to show gratitude. It’s a day to allow Americans to honor and remember those who bravely served this country and suffered injuries, or were killed while serving,” Kennard explained of the holiday’s meaning. He then introduced the many dignitaries in the audience before turning it over to Dr. Tom Waters.
Waters, who was a major contributor in the effort to make Pahrump the first Purple Heart Town in Nevada and Nye County the state’s first Purple Heart County, was master of ceremonies for the event. He started off by explaining that unlike the last several years, the 2022 Purple Heart Day ceremony had been sponsored by the VFW and in the future, each of the four local veterans’ organizations would be heading the event as well.
“The program tonight is being hosted by the VFW post. During rehearsal, we decided that, because we are rotating this each year, next year will be the Marines Corps League. The year after that it will be the American Legion, then it will go back to the DAV. So you will see a different veterans’ organization (organizing the ceremony), to show how well we work together. And that’s what it’s all about,” Waters stated before the formal program began.
VFW Chaplain Stephen Hall led the opening prayer, after which the Nye County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard presented the colors while deputy Greg Curtain sang the “Star-Spangled Banner” and the crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
The presentation of a series of proclamations followed, with framed documents proclaiming Aug. 7 as Purple Heart Day in Pahrump, Nye County and the state of Nevada handed out to representatives of all four local veterans’ organizations, including the VFW, DAV, Marine Corps League and American Legion. Nye County Commission Chair Frank Carbone was joined by commissioner Leo Blundo and town and county manager Tim Sutton in distributing the town and county proclamations while Nevada Assemblyman Greg Hafen II had the honor of presenting the state proclamation.
During his remarks, Hafen was noticeably emotional. He explained that he had just learned that a Purple Heart recipient he knew well had recent lost his battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and that had brought home the truly poignant meaning behind Purple Heart Day.
“My prayers are with his family, and there is no better way to honor them than to be here today to give these proclamations that have been signed by our Governor Steve Sisolak,” Hafen said. “This day evokes emotions and when you hear that a Purple Heart recipient loses his battle like that, tragic is understated.
“Many of us here, in this great nation, don’t realize the sacrifice that each of you have made,” Hafen continued, indicating all of the veterans present. “To ensure that this nation and this world stays free… And those who have received the Purple Heart medal, they truly bear the painful wounds that our country pays to ensure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
There were two guest speakers for the event, U.S. Marine Corps Major (Ret.) Tim Callahan and Nevada Department of Veterans Services Director Fred Wagar. Marine and DAV member Buddy Tisdale was scheduled to read a special poem entitled, “A Soldier Died Today”, but he was unable to make the ceremony, so Waters took over for him.
In addition to the poem, Waters read a letter that was sent to a former Nye County veteran, Pastor Wayne O’Bannon. That letter told O’Bannon about the details surrounding his brother, Doc’s, death while in service in Vietnam, details O’Bannon had never been able to uncover. It was an emotional epistle narrating a horrific event in which Doc was killed by “friendly fire”, American military that had mistaken him and his platoon for the enemy. The veteran who wrote the letter had survived and was glad to be able to finally tell O’Bannon what had happened to his brother.
Every member of the audience was moved by the letter and Waters remarked, “Reading the story of Doc O’Bannon was emotional for me because my brother was killed in Vietnam. And, it’s just emotional.”
The Purple Heart Day Sundown Ceremony included the traditional ID/Dog Tag and wreath ceremonies as well, conducted by Marine Corps League member Jerry Dumont and Reverend Martha Wilson. A final prayer, “Taps” and a gun volley salute closed out the ceremony.
Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at email@example.com
Just a Common Soldier
(A Soldier Died Today)
By A. Lawrence Vaincourt
He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast
And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past
Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done
In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one
And tho’ sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke
All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke
But we’ll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away
And the world’s a little poorer, for a soldier died today
He will not be mourned by many, just his children and wife
For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way
And the world won’t note his passing, though a soldier died today
When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great
Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young
But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung
Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife
Goes off to serve his country and offers up his life?
A politicians stipend and the style in which he lives
Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives
While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps a pension, small
It’s so easy to forget them for it was so long ago
That the old Bills of our country went to battle, but we know
It was not the politicians, with their compromises and ploys
Who won for us the freedom that our country now enjoys
Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand
Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and country and would fight until the end?
He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier’s part
Is the clean up all the troubles that the politicians start
If we cannot do him honor while he’s here to hear the praise
Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say
Our country is in mourning, for a soldier died today