By Conrad Dudderar
Purple Heart recipients were honored for their courage and sacrifice during a special program this week in Yukon.
Yukon hosted a “Purple Heart City” ceremony April 27 at the Dale Robertson Center, 1200 Lakeshore.
All veterans rose from their chairs to receive resounding applause during the Tuesday morning event, attended by several Purple Heart recipients, along with city officials and a state legislator.
State Rep. Jay Steagall (R-Yukon), a member of the House Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, was pleased to attend the ceremony with fellow veterans.
“I’m grateful to be part of a city that recognizes not just those who wear a uniform but those who literally put their lives on the line,” Steagall said. “Yukon’s a very special place to live and recognizing our Purple Heart recipients is ‘icing on the cake’.
“I’m very proud of Yukon, and very proud of our mayor and city council for putting this event together to recognize those members of our community.”
The Purple Heart – the first American service award or decoration made available to the common soldier – is specifically awarded to members of the United States armed forces who have been wounded or died in combat.
Other dignitaries at the April 27th ceremony were members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Oklahoma Veterans Council, Oklahoma Department of Veterans, Oklahoma Purple Heart Program, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Yukon Veterans Museum.
The program was coordinated by Mustang’s Amy Stout, a member of VFW Auxiliary Post 382.
“Thank you for your service and thank you for being here,” Stout told the gathering.
The State of Oklahoma was officially declared a “Purple Heart State” on Nov. 1, 2019. The City of Yukon earned the distinction April 6.
Yukon’s Purple Heart City ceremony featured a presentation of the colors by Terry “Bones” Walker of the VFW as attendees recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
That was followed by a moving rendition of the National Anthem offered by Pat Payne.
Scott Kinney, associate pastor of Trinity Baptist Church-Yukon, then gave the invocation.
“Father, we’re here today to say, ‘thank you’ that you still allow us to have a free nation,” Kinney said during his prayer. “And we’re a free nation, Lord, because You called men and women to serve in such a great way to keep us free.
“Lord, may we never, ever forget the freedoms that so many here came and risked their life and limb for.”
Pastor Kinney believes “we owe so much” to Purple Heart recipients.
“We’re one nation under God,” he said. “May we always be so.”
Oklahoma Purple Heart State Commander Larry Van Schuyver presented an award to City of Yukon officials and Rep. Steagall recognizing Yukon as an official Purple Heart City.
“On behalf of the military, Purple Heart and all our chapters in the State of Oklahoma, we are so proud to welcome Yukon to our Purple Heart family,” Van Schuyver said.
The special guest presenter thanked city leaders, Rep. Steagall, the Yukon Veterans Museum, and Yukon’s “wonderful, patriotic city.”
“To us, it’s honoring all veterans – not just Purple Heart recipients,” Van Schuyver added. “It shows your community’s love of your veterans.”
U.S. Army (ret.) Rick Cacini, curator of the Yukon Veterans Museum, shared the history of the Purple Heart with the audience.
The oldest military decoration in the world still in use, the Purple Heart was created in 1782 by General George Washington.
Gen. Washington did this “as a way to honor the brave soldiers who fought under his command,” said Cacini, a Yukon City Council member. “It was a badge of distinction for meritorious service.”
When Washington left home in 1775 to lead the fight for American independence, he told his wife Martha that he would be home for Christmas.
Washington – who later because the country’s first president – had no idea he would be away, at war, for eight years.
“But he did know his sacrifice was for the unborn generations,” Cacini related. “And we know those present here today, who served their country, were for the unborn generations as well.”
Stout shared a poem honoring Purple Heart recipients to close the program.
“True patriots, they faced their call, to keep our nation strong for all,” she read.