County honors veterans with Purple Heart proclamation

WOODSTOCK – A granite monument and a first-of-its-kind proclamation will let people know that McHenry County appreciates its wounded veterans.

The county is the first in the state to declare being a Purple Heart County. The proclamation adopted earlier this year by the McHenry County Board allows the county to fly a special commemorative flag authorized under the Illinois Military Order of the Purple Heart. More permanent than the flag will be a red granite monument placed near the flagpoles at the courthouse.

The proclamation and the monument are the work of Marine veteran Richard Young and his wife, Monica. Richard Young, a retired county sheriff's deputy, never received the award – a fact for which his wife is very grateful – but wanted to honor those who have. His father and his uncles, all of whom served in the Army in the Pacific Theater of World War II, received the medal for being wounded in action.

"This shows that the county respects and honors its veterans," said Richard Young, who served as a flight line supervisor between 1963 and 1969. "I want them to know how the rest of the county feels toward them."

The Purple Heart was originally conceived as a badge for military merit by Gen. George Washington, but since World War I has been awarded for those wounded or killed in the line of duty. It is the only military decoration that comes with no prerequisite of a recommendation – a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine is entitled to it if he or she meets the criteria of being wounded or killed in action against an enemy.

More than 2 million Americans have received the award since World War I, according to the national Military Order of the Purple Heart.

The proclamation approved by the County Board will allow the Purple Heart flag to be flown at any county facility, Richard Young said.

The Youngs said the monument will be dedicated Aug. 7, which is Purple Heart Day by act of Congress. Richard Young said he also has arranged for the Movable Memorial Wall of Honor to be on display at the dedication – the wall honors the 268 soldiers from Illinois who have died in action since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

"The greatest casualty of war is being forgotten," Monica Young said.

The City of Woodstock is the first city government in the state to be designated a Purple Heart City. Woodstock has a Purple Heart memorial that can be found on the east side of the Park in the Square.

Monica Young said the two of them have wanted for years to do something to honor military wounded on top of her husband's other responsibilities with the McHenry County Marine Corps League. Her husband does honor guards for funerals, helps with the league's annual Toys for Tots campaign and is a member of the league's Military Order of the Devil Dogs, an honor society that inducts only top members.

A week after the monument's dedication, the Youngs plan to renew their wedding vows after 48 years, and Richard plans to wear his dress blues.

"Once a Marine, always a Marine," Monica Young said.

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