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Pahrump Purple Heart Day ceremony honors wounded and fallen

National Purple Heart Day is a day set aside for the remembrance and honoring of the brave men and women of the U.S. armed forces who have been injured or lost their lives in service to their country.

It is a day of solemn sadness but also of respect and recognition, providing a platform from which to express deep and abiding gratitude for the sacrifices made by service members who shoulder the responsibility of protecting America.

In Pahrump, the observance of Purple Heart Day has now become a tradition, joining the yearly schedule of military ceremonies that help denote the veteran-supportive nature of the community.

For the third consecutive year, the Disabled American Veterans Chapter #15 of Pahrump hosted a ceremony in honor of the occasion, inviting civilians and military members from all across the valley for a sundown service on Wednesday, Aug. 7 at the Chief Tecopa Cemetery Veterans Memorial.

DAV Chapter #15 Commander Greg Cardarelli welcomed the audience that evening before turning the microphone over to the master of ceremonies, Dr. Tom Waters, who introduced a number of dignitaries present for the observance along with Gold Star Family members and recipients of the Purple Heart.

Waters also took a moment to give recognition to former Pahrump Buildings and Ground Manager Matt Luis and Marine Corps League Detachment #1199 member Jose Telles. He explained that it was these two who initially started the movement to create a Veterans Memorial at the cemetery, a place that has become central to many of the valley’s patriotic ceremonies.

The opening prayer from DAV Chaplain Doug Garlin was followed by the national anthem, sung acapella by Nye County Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Curtin while the sheriff’s office honor guard presented the colors. As one, the crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance, voices ringing out with words that have for so long been a sacred salute to the nation.

Nevada Assemblyman Greg Hafen II was then invited to present Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak’s proclamation recognizing Aug. 7 as Purple Heart Day in the Silver State.

Hafen remarked that the Purple Heart ceremony, “…provides us with a great opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices of the brave men and women who have served… and were injured as a result of military operations. Those who have been awarded the Purple Heart medal bear the wounds that our nation pays for its freedom. They are a living representation of the anguish a nation suffers in pursuit of our cherished ideas. Let us not just remember them but also help with their re-integration into civilization, as they are America’s best. It is a great honor to recognize these brave individuals today.”

Nye County Commission Chairman John Koenig was invited as a guest speaker for the event as well, detailing the history of the Purple Heart medal before turning to his personal comments.

“We’re blessed to be surrounded by veterans tonight,” Koenig stated. “I’m honored to meet them, to thank them, to work for them every day and help our county’s veterans. I have the best job in the world when it comes to that, believe me, I’m proud of it and I am happy to do it. It is our mission, yours, mine, and all Americans’, to care for those who have borne the battle and their families and survivors.”

Diane Jackson graced the ceremony with her soulful voice, performing “God Bless America,” after which the moving POW/MIA ceremony to honor prisoners of war and those missing in action was conducted by Waters, DAV member Cles Saunders and DAV Auxiliary member Beverly Baker.

The Nevada Silver Tappers, dressed in their iconic red, white and blue outfits and carrying American flags in each hand, performed a dance routine to “Proud to Be an American” and the night’s keynote speaker, Nevada Department of Veterans Services Director Kat Miller, followed.

Miller, who served 34 years in the Army, beginning as an enlisted soldier and climbing the ranks to eventually become a colonel, told the crowd, “I am so honored to be here tonight. I love coming to Pahrump, Pahrumpians are some of the kindest, nicest, most generous people I have ever known.”

Miller also made a special point to recognize Gold Star Families once again, stating, “Since Nevada became a state, it has lost 896 men in the defense of this nation and the sacrifice of the Gold Star Families’ members that are here… please know that somewhere, active serving military and veterans are still grieving for the loss of your father, your child, your brother, your aunt, your spouse… You don’t carry that loss alone. That grief is carried in a million hearts all over this country by veterans and those active serving who knew your loved one and will never forget them.”

The Purple Heart Day ceremony continued with the traditional ID/Dog Tag ceremony conducted by Marines Corps League member Jerry Dumont and the wreath ceremony performed by DAV Auxiliary members Jannis Saunders, Susan Cardarelli and Martha Wilson-Dumont, before concluding with a firearms volley salute by the sheriff’s office honor guard and the playing of the military dirge “Taps.”

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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