National Purple Heart Day was first observed in America in 2014 and three years later, August 7 was officially recognized as Purple Heart Day in Pahrump and Nye County, marking the beginning of what has now become a yearly tradition.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic forced certain constraints on the annual ceremony that commemorates the occasion in Pahrump, event organizers were overjoyed to report that the 2020 Purple Heart Day Sundown Ceremony was once again a success.
“It was my first Purple Heart event as commander of the DAV Chapter #15 and I have to say that I was amazed, given the current COVID-19 restrictions, at the turnout,” commander Terry Janke of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter #15, the sponsoring organization, told the Pahrump Valley Times. “Once again the town of Pahrump has demonstrated its appreciation of, and support for, its veteran community.”
DAV member and event master of ceremonies Dr. Tom Waters, who helped lead the effort for Pahrump and Nye County to be recognized as Purple Heart entities, said he too was delighted with how the sundown ceremony turned out.
“It was a wonderful community effort. Support from the community was amazing, especially with the COVID-19 restrictions. Although it was sponsored by the DAV, the Marine Corps League Detachment #1199’s participation was crucial. It was also supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #10054 and the American Legion Post #22,” Waters stated.
“I can’t say enough about the fabulous Nevada Silver Tappers, who created the atmosphere needed for the Purple Heart Day Ceremony,” Waters continued. “The Pahrump Buildings and Grounds crew were superb. The speakers, Fred Wagar (Nevada Department of Veterans Service Deputy Director of Programs and Services) and John Koenig (Nye County Commission Chairman), provided the words we all needed to hear. Lastly, the support from the DAV Auxiliary, the Veterans Advisory Committee, and others made this the best Purple Heart Day Ceremony yet. I was truly honored to be a part of this community event.”
Janke kicked off the program by welcoming everyone in attendance and introducing the master of ceremonies for the event, Waters. After recognizing the commanders and commandant of the military organizations present, Waters turned it over to DAV Chaplain Doug Darlin, who gave the opening prayer. The Marine Corps Honor Guard then entered the venue, proudly carrying the American Flag for the presentation of the colors and the audience rose to its feet to recite the Pledge of Allegiance as one.
Don Boulden of the Nye County Sheriff’s Office stepped up to the podium next to sing the national anthem before commission chairman Koenig came forward to make his remarks as guest speaker. Koenig also had the pleasure of presenting two proclamations passed by the Nye County Commission, one officially recognizing August 7 as Purple Heart Day in the county and another recognizing Purple Heart Day in the town of Pahrump.
Boulden took to the microphone once again for a rendition of patriotic songs, which was followed by the always somber and touching ceremony to honor prisoners of war and those missing in action, a solemn task taken on by Waters along with DAV member Cles Saunders and DAV Auxiliary member Martha Wilson.
The Nevada Silver Tappers, resplendent in their sparkling red, white and blue costumes and wearing patriotic masks in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, added their own unique touch of patriotism and enthusiasm to the event with a dance routine to “Pledge to America”. Following the Tappers was Wagar, who offered his thoughts on the day and its intrinsic meaning, after which Jerry Dumont of the Marine Corps League Detachment #1199 conducted the ID/Dog Tag ceremony and Wilson performed the wreath ceremony. A closing prayer from Garlin and a volley salute and performance of “Taps” from the Marine Corps League Honor Guard closed out the 2020 Purple Heart Day Sundown Ceremony.
Purple Heart Day finds its roots in the earliest days of the United States, going back to 1782 when General George Washington, as commander in chief of the Continental Army, created the badge for military merit, consisting of the purple heart-shaped piece of silk that is so familiar today.
According to History.com, the military decoration was largely forgotten following the Revolutionary War, until General Charles P. Summerall attempted to revive the Badge of Military Merit in 1927. Though Summerall was not successful, his successor, General Douglas MacArthur, carried on the cause.
MacArthur’s efforts ultimately resulted in the establishment of the Order of the Purple Heart, which became official the same year as Washington’s 200th birthday, 1932. The Purple Heart is now awarded to the men and women of the U.S. armed forces who have either been wounded in action or have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at email@example.com