Herkimer County has become the eighth county in New York to be officially designated a Purple Heart County.
The designation honors all of the county’s Purple Heart recipients whose “service and sacrifice will never be forgotten,” according to the resolution, and is part of a national effort to get states, counties, towns and villages designated as Purple Heart.
“With this designation Herkimer County joins the recipients of the Purple Heart and the members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart in recognizing the devotion of our service members for whom the values of this country were greater than even their love of home, friends and family, of their hopes and dreams and often more precious than life itself,” Legislator John Brezinski, D - Frankfort, said after Wednesday’s quarterly session of the Herkimer County Legislature. “I hope it is with great honor that the recipients of the Purple Heart living in Herkimer County accept this designation.”
The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the president to any member of the nation’s armed forces who was wounded or killed in combat with a declared enemy of the U.S.
The medal is the oldest military award still given to members of the nation’s armed forces. George Washington, then the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, established the original Purple Heart, designated as the Badge of Military Merit, by order from his Newburgh headquarters on Aug. 7, 1782.
“This designation means something, especially to the young men and women who are coming home wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan,” said William Nazario, commander of the state department of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. “This generation, like the generation before, has given a lot to us, so let’s not forget the sacrifices they made.”
Nazario said the Military Order of the Purple Heart is asking all counties in the state to be designated as a Purple Heart County. “It is my goal to have New York be the first state in the country to have every county within it declared a Purple Heart County,” he said.
A Vietnam veteran and a Purple Heart recipient himself, Nazario added the group is also targeting colleges and universities, as many of today’s veterans are taking advantage of the G.I. Bill. They are even working to get the new Tappan Zee Bridge renamed the Purple Heart Memorial Bridge to serve as a constant reminder that freedom is not free.
“It is paid for by the blood, sweat and tears of our service men and women,” he said.
If Nazario gets his wish, drivers entering Herkimer County will see the Purple Heart logo on signs along the county line and children will ask their parents what it means.
Page 2 of 2 - “It’s an educational tool,” he said. “We want to get recognition for those who were wounded or killed in combat. If a child sees the Purple Heart logo and asks their parent what it means, their mother or father can explain what the Purple Heart is to them. If the child is old enough, he or she can do some research and learn more about the medal.”
County Administrator James Wallace said Nazario’s request for the placement of Purple Heart County signs at the county’s entry points will be forwarded to the Legislature’s Committee on Veterans Affairs and Administration and Committee on Highways.
“Many Herkimer County citizens have earned the Purple Heart. Their contributions and sacrifices have been vital in maintaining the freedoms and way of life we enjoy today,” said Brezinski. “This designation will forever remember those who died and were wounded defending our country. That’s why it’s so important that we did this.”
Brezinski, a veteran, said Joe Fraccola, senior vice commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, reached out to him after Oneida County passed a similar resolution requesting legislation be considered for a county designation.
California’s Shasta County became the first Purple Heart County in the nation in 2011, according to the Military Order of the Purple Heart.