All Gave Some, Some Gave All

by Jill Bright // April - May - June 2018

One of the most respected, recognized, and oldest military awards presented to a member of the United States Armed Forces is the Purple Heart. It is a unique decoration, not given because of a recommendation, but rather awarded to those who have been wounded, or posthumously to the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, during action against an enemy of the United States.  

The original Purple Heart was established by George Washington on August 7, 1782, as a cloth badge called the Badge of Military Merit. In 1932, on the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birthday, the Purple Heart was reestablished to its current design, as a symbol of honor for sacrifice. This heart-shaped purple service award has a gold border with George Washington’s profile on the front and his coat of arms between sprays of leaves at the top, with purple and white ribbons attached. Inscribed on the back of each are the words “For Military Merit.” The color purple was chosen because it represents bravery, courage, value, and sacredness. For each subsequent injury, an oak leaf cluster or 5/16-inch star is given.
Every August 7, our country celebrates Purple Heart Day to honor, remember, and thank those wounded or killed while defending our country. Wanting to honor our local Purple Heart recipients, Greg Harrington, Lisa N. Hayes, and Mike Johnson formed the Wake Forest Purple Heart Foundation (WFPHF). A new board of directors planned the first dinner for Veterans Day 2009 at the Ledford Center, where 32 Purple Heart recipients and four families representing their veterans brought together 175 people. The guest speaker was the only World War II fighter pilot to fly all of the major air missions in the Pacific. 
It was decided that all future events were to be held on or close to National Purple Heart Day.  For the growing crowd, banquets were held at the Wake Forest Presbyterian Church, and are now at the larger Richland Creek Community Church, where attendance in 2017 was close to 550 people, including 70 Purple Heart recipients.  Past speakers have included four-star generals, an active duty command sergeant major, a Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War, a blind active duty captain, a retired sergeant who lost both legs, and a colonel who was portrayed in Black Hawk Down.  
Prior to each banquet, these honored veterans attend a private reception where they share their military memories with those who have had similar experiences. After the colors are presented and bagpipes play, each recipient is introduced, walks through an Honor Guard of Wake Forest High School JROTC cadets with their sabers raised, is presented a gift, and then escorted to their table. Near the conclusion, military members in the audience are asked to stand as their branch of service song is played, closing with Taps.

Due to the efforts of this Foundation, a state Purple Heart Foundation was formed in 2012, and banquets patterned to Wake Forest’s are now held in at least five other North Carolina cities. Preparations are now underway for the 10th annual banquet that will  be held this summer on August 4. Ticket sales, along with sponsorships, donations, scholarship applications, and more information can be found on the WFPHF  web page, Facebook page, by emailing, or contacting co-chairs Mandy Duguid, Greg Harrington, or any board member. 

The hard work and months of planning by many has made this a successful banquet that definitely accomplishes its mission statement ... “to provide a forum for the local community to honor Purple Heart recipients and their families, to foster an environment of goodwill among combat wounded Veterans, to promote patriotism and to encourage the sharing of recipient experiences so future generations will know of the sacrifices made by Veterans and their families.” 

Jill Bright

Bright Funeral Home, located at 405 S. Main St. in Wake Forest. Bright Funeral Home serves the Wake Forest, Rolesville, Youngsville, Franklinton, Falls, Bay Leaf, Louisburg, Raleigh, and surrounding areas.