‘Military Merit’

Published 9:04 am Monday, January 20, 2014

At their January meetings the Boards of Commissioners of both Hertford and Bertie counties approved a statewide proclamation declaring both as “Purple Heart Counties”

Organized by the Down East Chapter 639 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart in Morehead City, the group is seeking to make all 100 counties in the state Purple Heart counties.

The Purple Heart, established by George Washington as the Badge of Military Merit in 1782 and first awarded under its current name in 1932, is reserved for combat-wounded veterans or any military service personnel killed in any action against any enemy of the United States of America.

“The Purple Heart is one of the oldest (military) declarations,” said Hertford County Commissioner Johnnie Ray Farmer, in speaking before his board on Jan. 6. Farmer himself is a Vietnam-era veteran, member of Ahoskie American Legion Post-102, and former JROTC instructor at Hertford County High School. “It began with Gen. George Washington and is still awarded today for wounds received in combat action.”

Farmer says the honor is important because of what the service of military veterans should mean to all citizens, especially in these times.

“It’s very important because we’re still involved in the war on terrorism with soldiers still coming home wounded,” Farmer added. “This is in recognition of their service to our nation and I think that’s very important.

“We have some great veterans in our area, including a Pearl Harbor survivor that many of us may not even know about,” Farmer went on to say. “Our Veterans Services officer stays quite busy taking care of veterans; so I appreciate us taking time for this and supporting this proclamation.”

Chairman Bill Mitchell made the motion for approval, seconded by Farmer.

In Bertie County on Jan. 7, county Veterans Service Officer Milton Parker – who is not just his county’s officer, but also a national officer – appeared before his county’s board.

“They (Chapter 639) have thrift stores and other activities where they raise funds to help veterans and they simply want everyone on board so when they go before Congress they can continue this in the future,” said Perry.

When asked by Commissioner Rick Harrell the number of Purple Heart recipients in Bertie County, Parker said he could only think of one at that time.

“I’ve reviewed all the active files,” Parker said. “But some files are inactive.”

Commissioner John Trent pointed out that his late father received two Purple Heart for his service in World War II and felt that this was a great honor for the county to participate in.

“There were several men from Bertie County who went off to that war and they went as a group,” said Trent.

“And there are only a few of them that are still around,” said Harrell.

Commissioner Ron Wesson said several of the men in his father’s group that went off to war from Bertie County were actually graduated from high school early.

“We recently honored a veteran of high distinction, one of the oldest African-American veterans we could find, who served in the Army on two occasions, in the Marines, and in the Navy,” Wesson said. “And on the day he died he could still fit in his uniform.”

Harrell, who also said that his daughter did two tours of duty in Iraq, including Operation Iraqi Freedom, made the motion to approve the proclamation, seconded by Trent.

In addition to indentifying the Purple Heart, its creation by Gen. Washington, and the mission of the Military Honor of the Purple Heart, the Proclamation declares that the counties each have several residents who are recipients. It further recognizes the commitment and increasing sacrifices required of military families, and pledges support for the men and women who so honorably serve.