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Wright-Patterson becomes first active-duty Purple Heart Base

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was honored as the first active-duty Purple Heart Base by the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Department of Ohio, in Dayton Dec. 10.

“Today Wright-Patterson Air Force Base becomes the first active-duty military base in America to be designated as a Purple Heart Base and joined a national network known as the Purple Heart Trail,” said Randy Howson, Purple Heart Trail coordinator for the state of Ohio.

Col. Thomas Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing and Installation commander, hosted the designation ceremony at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Sherman said it was an honor to stand there with members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and that they represented a visible symbol of the price of freedom.

After thanking community partners, the state and guests, Sherman added that being designated as a Purple Heart Base began as a conversation and a dream a little over one year ago at a community event.

“The important value of Wright-Patterson being the community and the community being Wright-Patterson was actualized in that very moment,” added Sherman.

Prior to Sherman’s speech, Howson, who served as the guest speaker for the event, spoke to the ceremony’s attendees. During his speech, he shared U.S. Army Special Forces Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez’s story and the history behind the Purple Heart. Howson is also a Purple Heart recipient who received his Purple Heart after being wounded in 1969 while serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

“There’s a saying among us combat-wounded Veterans, for those who have fought for it, life has a special flavor the protected will never know,” said Howson. “You have never lived until you have almost died, and it’s us Veterans that pray for peace most of all, especially, the wounded because we continue to suffer the wounds of war.”

Two Wright-Patterson Airmen, who are Purple Heart recipients also, participated in the ceremony. Master Sgt. Benjamin Seekell, 88th Medical Operations Squadron first sergeant served as the event’s emcee, and Senior Master Sgt. Jason Kreider, 788th Civil Engineer Squadron, squadron superintendent and explosive ordnance device flight chief, unveiled the Purple Heart Base sign design.

Combat-wounded World War II Veteran Denzel Howard, assisted with the ceremony too. Howard unveiled the combat-wounded veteran parking signs that will go up in a few locations on base. The 95-year-old Marine Veteran fought in the Battle of the Guadalcanal.

Now that Wright-Patterson is a Purple Heart Base, it joins the Purple Heart Trail community. In 1992, the Military Order of the Purple Heart created the Purple Heart Trail, which is made-up of states, cities, communities, bridges, roads, and monuments around the country that silently, yet visually, pays tribute to Purple Heart recipients. The trail begins in Mount Vernon, Virginia, at George Washington’s burial site.

Washington’s Badge of Merit laid the foundation for the Purple Heart. The War Department’s General Order No. 3 created today’s Purple Heart in 1932 to recognize Washington’s military achievements and honor his memory.

Today’s Purple Heart recipients were wounded, killed or died from wounds they received as a result of a military peacekeeping effort outside of the United States and its territories while serving under competent authority.

In addition to the Purple Heart Trail’s symbolic tribute, Purple Heart Day is observed Aug. 7 to honor Purple Heart recipients for their sacrifices.

“It is our hope that every person, military and civilian, entering the gates of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base will notice the Purple Heart Base sign and reflect back to all of the men and women, past and present, that have fought, been wounded or given their lives to preserve America’s most precious gift for freedom,” said Howson. “The United States of America is truly the land of the free, the home of the brave, one nation under God …”