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Purple Heart sundown service salutes area veterans — PHOTOS

Military service comes with no guarantee of safety and many of the country’s brave men and women have been injured or even given their lives while striving to protect the American way. In an effort to recognize the sacrifices made by those who have suffered the wounds of war, Aug. 7 was established as National Purple Heart Day in 2014.

Three years later, the town of Pahrump officially became the first “Purple Heart Town” in the state of Nevada and Nye County the state’s first “Purple Heart County.”

Every year since, area residents have been celebrating the occasion with a military service.

Originally hosted by the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter #15, the Purple Heart Day Sundown Ceremony has since been organized through the efforts of various veterans’ groups and this year, it was the American Legion Post #22 taking the lead.

Gathering at the Pahrump Veterans’ Memorial inside the Chief Tecopa Cemetery, America Legion members were joined by members of the DAV as well as the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #10054 and the Marine Corps League Detachment #1199, along with dozens of civilians out to show their support.

American Legion Post #22 Commander Melinda Mills welcomed the crowd that evening before handing the microphone off to Lt. Col. Dr. Tom Waters, who acted as master of ceremonies once again this year. Waters introduced the event’s distinguished guests, military organization leaders and government officials but made clear that the most important recognition of all went to the Purple Heart recipients themselves, as well as members of all attending Gold Star families.

American Legion Chaplain James Mills provided the opening prayer, which was followed by the presentation of the colors by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard. Once the “Star-Spangled Banner” and flag of the state of Nevada were in place, the audience recited the Pledge of Allegiance as a whole and Nye County Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Curtain sang the national anthem.

There were two guest speakers for the Purple Heart Day Sundown Ceremony, including Nye County Commissioner Frank Carbone, who is a veteran himself, and keynote speaker Nevada Assemblyman Greg Hafen II.

Hafen spoke about efforts at the Nevada State Legislature this past year that he was proud to be a part of, as they provided some small but still impactful benefit to those who have served. He touched on Assembly Bill 203, which passed this year.

That bill allows Purple Heart license plate holders to access free parking at places like the airport and at state and local government facilities that charge for parking. The bill also opened the door for Purple Heart license plates to be personalized, a request that came directly from one of Hafen’s constituents. Another bill passed in 2023 that allows veterans to now access state parks for free.

“These both are just small tokens of our appreciation,” Hafen II remarked.

Nye County Commission Chair Bruce Jabbour was charged with presenting a series of proclamations for the town and the county regarding Purple Heart Day to the commanders and commandants of the four local veterans’ organizations. Nevada Department Director Fred Wagar also handed out proclamations to the four groups, these from the office of Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo.

The Purple Heart Day Sundown service was rounded out with two always-moving ceremonies, the ID/Dog Tag Ceremony and the Wreath Ceremony, conducted by Major Tim Callahan, and Mills with American Legion 1st Vice Steven Watkins, respectively. Capt. Jim Eisenberg’s recitation of the poem “A Soldier Died Today” was emotionally evocative, drawing tears to the eyes of several attendees and underscoring the importance of recognizing America’s heroes. A closing prayer by Mills was followed by the bugling of “Taps” by Major Stephen Hall.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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