Logan County the 'purplest county' in the nation

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[August 10, 2017]  LINCOLN - On August 7, 1782, General George Washington created the “Badge for Military Merit” to improve soldier’s morale. The “Purple Heart” made of silk with a narrow binding of silver around the edge is the oldest known United States military decoration still in use.

The first local “Purple Heart Celebration and Remembrance” took place on Monday, August 7, 2017, at exactly 6 p.m. Family and friends gathered at the Logan County Courthouse Flag Pole to acknowledge and thank Purple Heart recipients in Logan County.

Under the direction of Melanie and Joe Schaler a panel of special guests shared in a ceremony to honor military personnel who have received the Purple Heart for “any singularly meritorious action.”

Jim Turley brought the crowd to attention by playing the bagpipes.

Master of Ceremonies Joe Schaler started the evening by thanking everyone for coming and introduced the special guests who would be helping with the celebration. He made specific mention of his wife, Melanie, who was instrumental in organizing the evening.

John Guzzardo, then, stepped to the microphone to offer the Invocation.

Following the Flag raising by the Marine Corps League, Jim Harnacke led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Sheralyn Bolton led the audience in singing a National Anthem Medley including America the Beautiful, God Bless America, and the National Anthem.

Pete Dowding, Junior Vice Commander of the Military Order Purple Heart Hayes/Krell Chapter #159, spoke of the history of the Purple Heart:

The military practice in Europe was to honor high-ranking officers who had achieved victory. In America, however, General Washington believed the “road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is . . . open to all.” Most historians specify that only three people received it during the American Revolutionary War, all of them noncommissioned officers and the only ones to receive the award from General Washington himself.

Beatrice Mary McDonald was the first known woman to receive the Purple Heart. Her unit was assigned to work at a British Clearing Hospital located four miles behind the lines in Belgium. A German aircraft bombed the hospital wounding her with shell fragments. Chief Nurse McDonald lost her right eye but remained in the Army and served throughout the war.

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Mr. Dowding concluded his dialogue by assuring everyone that “under the auspices of the National Americanism Program, the Military Order of the Purple Heart continues to research the origins and history of the Badge of Military Merit and the Purple Heart in honor of those who have sacrificed their lives or wellbeing in the service of their country.”

Illinois State Representative, Tim Butler, who was instrumental in making Illinois a Purple Heart State, had a few words for those who earned the special merit. First Rep. Butler thanked Sheralyn for singing saying, “The National Anthem is my favorite song.” He explained the National Anthem is a song about our flag, but also a song about a battle at Baltimore Harbor. He then thanked those in the service by saying, “It’s those of you who serve who make those broad stripes a little nicer when we look at the flag and make those stars a little brighter.”

Representative Butler ended with the idea, “Liberty and justice are something to stand for.”

Pastor L.C. Sutton of Eminence Christian Church offered the evening's Benediction followed by Mr. Turley playing the bagpipes.

The grand finale of the celebration was Sadie Bolton playing Taps on her purple trumpet. Taps is a bugle call played at dusk, during flag ceremonies, and at military funerals. Many attending the celebration had tears in their eyes as Sadie shared her rendition.

Mr. Schaler lead the effort for Logan County to be the first county in the United States to become a Purple Heart Community. He didn’t do it just to be first, he did it because Logan County is a veteran friendly community and he is proud to be part of a great community.

If you missed this year's “Purple Heart Celebration and Remembrance,” be sure to look for it next year. It’s a community celebration you don’t want to miss!

[Lisa Ramlow]

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