WOODSTOCK – The date Aug. 7 now will be remembered for two special reasons.
On Aug. 7, 1782, George Washington established the Order of the Purple Heart in honor of those injured or killed during combat.
Fast-forward 230 years to Tuesday, as Woodstock held its inaugural Purple Heart Day at the park in the Square to the delight of service members throughout the area, Purple Heart veterans and their families alike.
It marked the state’s first Purple Heart Day, and it allowed for a moment of thanks for the many service members in attendance.
“I think this day is great,” said Jim Hodges, a World War II and Korean War veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart. “It’s pretty special for me to see everything going on and the big turnout.”
There were a few hundred people in attendance, including families of veterans, active-duty service members and a lot of residents of the Woodstock area.
The day included speeches from former Marines and politicians, followed by a wreath ceremony to the tune of “America the Beautiful,” as well as a moment of silence and bell tolls.
Many veterans gathered around the wreath, which was placed near the Purple Heart Monument, in remembrance of their service and sacrifice.
Off to the side was a presentation of the state’s Movable Memorial Wall of Honor. The collapsible wall sat on a flowing purple velvet cloth and served as a remembrance of service members from Illinois who were killed during the nation’s war efforts through the start of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Bill Minnich and Art Schultz, both of whom were awarded the Purple Heart for their sacrifices during the Korean War, were among the few who remained in the Square as the crowd trickled out after the ceremonies ended.
They were standing at the Wall of Honor searching for those whom they knew and looking at the Korean War section.
The section detailed how many soldiers fought in the theater, the number of injured and how many of those were killed. It was a humbling moment for them.
“This is the first time we have been to a Purple Heart dedication alone,” Minnich said. “This is the first community I’ve ever been to – to do this and I was truly impressed by it.”
“When I talk to people some don’t know what a Purple Heart medal is,” Schultz said. “It makes me sad that people grow up not learning or not caring to know what it is. But it was nice to see this today.”