Emotions Spill Out As Springfield Is Named A Purple Heart City
A growing number of cities and towns in Massachusetts are being recognized for the support provided to wounded military veterans and their families.
Springfield was named a Purple Heart City during a ceremony Tuesday attended by about a dozen veterans, including several Purple Heart recipients, which culminated with the raising of a Purple Heart flag over the esplanade at City Hall.
Mayor Domenic Sarno said he was proud to accept the designation on behalf of all the city’s veterans.
"This is in honor of our veterans," he said.
Thomas Belton, director of the city’s Department of Veterans Services, became emotional when he stepped up to the microphone.
" I am just overwhelmed because life is important to me today," he said. " That is the short and long version of my speech."
He said later in an interview that he flashed back to the day he earned his Purple Heart.
" Sept. 28, 1968. Republic of South Vietnam. Da Nang. I-Corps. Got hit by a rocket," Belton said.
The Purple Heart is awarded to military men and women for wounds suffered in combat.
"This is something very special. A lot of people don't understand what it means to hold a Purple Heart," said Belton
He said it was an honor for Springfield to be recognized for the services the city provides its veterans.
" I follow a line of other directors of veterans services. They would also agree this is a distinguished honor for the city."
Belton also applauded the timing of the announcement. He noted May is Armed Forces Month, a big air show this weekend will commemorate the 75th anniversary of Westover Air Force Reserve Base, and Memorial Day is in less than two weeks.
The designation does not come from the U.S. government, but from the nonprofit Military Order of The Purple Heart. The organization’s mission is to foster an environment of goodwill and camaraderie among wounded combat veterans, promote patriotism, provide help to veterans and their families and back legislative initiatives.
Thomas Terrien, the vice-commander of the Massachusetts chapter of the organization said 60-70 cities and towns have been designated Purple Heart Communities.
"It is just to show these communities are helping their veterans and doing what they can for their veterans. It shows they back the veterans," he said.
State Rep. Angelo Puppolo said no state does more for its veterans than Massachusetts.
" I am very proud of that distinction. We have worked on a number of important bills over the last few sessions to expand those benefits, such as the Welcome Home Act, to make sure they get everything they deserve and have earned," said Puppolo.
The Purple Heart is the country’s oldest military decoration. It was originally called the Badge of Merit when it was created by George Washington in 1782. It was renamed the Purple Heart in 1932.