Purple Heart Day to complete week honoring military wounded

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite
A Purple Heart medal for display at the Military Memorial Museum Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021. The Ardmore museum has over 100 military medals on display including several Purple Hearts.

While there is no definite count of how many Purple Hearts have been awarded to members of the U.S. military, an estimated 2 million have been earned through wounds sustained while serving since World War I. 

Recipients of the award are recognized on Aug. 7 every year for Purple Heart Day and while local events have again been canceled due to coronavirus concerns, a state organization supporting them will resume an annual ceremony on Saturday. 

“This is our celebration of our friends and special supporters,” said Larry Van Schuyver, State Commander for the Military Order of the Purple Heart in Oklahoma. While local events to mark the day have been canceled, the statewide organization will hold their ceremony at the El Reno VFW Post beginning a 10 a.m. 

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Last year’s events were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic so Van Schuyver said about 20 awards will be given out at the statewide ceremony this year, with many held over from last year. Awards are expected to be presented to volunteers and supporters of Purple Heart recipients and veterans. 

Even without local ceremonies across the state, the Purple Heart recipients at Oklahoma Veterans Centers across the state will still get their own recognition. 

“In our seven veterans’ centers we have Purple Heart recipients in each one,” said Van Schuyver. 

The Ardmore center is home to four Purple Heart recipients and center administrator Amy Sprouse said they will be recognized on Saturday with a party to thank them for their service and sacrifice. 

Wesley Hull, director of the Greater Southwest Historical Museum, said a public Purple Heart Day event in Ardmore this year was canceled but he still invites guests to visit the Military Memorial Museum which has multiple Purple Hearts, a WWII-era Purple Heart citation and other military medals on display.  

A Purple Heart citation from 1944 for Pvt. Vernon L. Pendergrast, USMC, on display at the Military Memorial Museum Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021.

According to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, about 1.8 million Purple Hearts have been awarded since the decoration was established in 1932. Over 1 million of them were awarded during WWII, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. 

Van Schuyver, also a Purple Heart recipient, said Oklahoma’s Military Order of the Purple Heart has worked with veterans, lawmakers and other organizations to investigate claims and secure awards for deserving recipients. Last year the group helped World War II veteran Joe Bartlett receive the award for injuries sustained over 75 years earlier. 

As Purple Heart Week ends, Van Schuver is glad to have the opportunity to use this week to also recognize the support system that helps veterans. 

“We’re honored that we have a national Purple Heart Day, of course, but all our veterans are being honored along with us,” Van Schuyver said.