Parker County Judge and Commissioners Court encouraged all local Purple Heart recipients and family members of recipients to attend Commissioners Court on Monday, as the court designated Parker County as a “Purple Heart County.”
The Purple Heart is awarded to any member of an Armed Force who has been wounded or killed in combat. The military has awarded an estimated 1.7 million Purple Hearts to soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen.
At least nine Parker County employees or their family members have received a Purple Heart and it is believed many members of the community have earned what is the oldest military decoration in use today.
Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient Rupert Harrell of Springtown, a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Post 1513 out of Tarrant County, brought forth the idea for the proclamation.
Harrell spoke with County Commissioner George Conley and County Judge Mark Riley about the possibility of making the proclamation.
“It was a no-brainer for Commissioner Conley and me to take up Mr. Harrell on his offer and to be honest it a privilege to be able to do something special to recognize the men and women who have been injured or killed in battle while fighting for our country,” Riley said.
Harrell said Parker County becomes the third county in the state of Texas to be designated as a “Purple Heart County.”
“Parker County taking this step says to our community that this county supports the servicemen and women either killed or wounded in combat,” Harrell said. “Of course we support all of our men and women who join our military services and we honor their service as well.”
Judge Wayne Hayes, Justice of the Peace Precinct 1, himself a Purple Heart recipient and Vietnam Veteran, said he is proud of the county for taking the step.
“I think it is a good thing for the county to do,” Hayes said. “It is a medal that many of us would rather not have, but it comes with the territory I suppose. Unfortunately we have many new Purple Heart recipients from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and it is good for them to see that we acknowledge them for their courage and that we show them the support they have earned.”
Parker County’s Veteran Service Officer John Hale said it is an emotional topic for him as he works with many Purple Heart recipients and he is always honored to meet them or their loved ones.
“The Order of the Purple Heart signifies that a member of the United States Armed Forces has been killed or wounded while protecting our democratic way of life; that they have engaged the enemies of freedom throughout the world and borne the brunt of battle,” Hale said. “To see the Purple Heart on a vehicle license plate elicits feelings of honor, dignity and pride and the sure realization that there are many women and men from Parker County who are willing to stand between us and the enemies of our precious freedom.”
Harrell’s work to assist the county’s proclamation doesn’t end there. He said he struggled with life for a long time after serving in Vietnam and still struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He found solace and healing through his ministry work, in which he takes other Vietnam Veterans suffering from PTSD back to Vietnam for both humanitarian work and to minister to the Vietnamese people.
He will be making his 45th trip back to Vietnam in October.
“We call them reconciliation rallies and I have found that the Vietnamese are very kind. We don’t apologize, as we have nothing to apologize for and neither do they,” Harrell said. “They know we were just doing our jobs and we know they were doing theirs.”
Harrell said the trips back allows the Vietnam Veterans who are still suffering from PTSD to forgive and even find peace.
“We take those who are willing and want to go back and we build churches and work to spread Christianity,” he said. “That leads to forgiveness and a better quality of life for everyone involved.”
Harrell said those interested in attending one of his ministry’s trips to Vietnam can find more information on his website at www.rupertharrellministries.org.
“We went over there with M-16’s the first time and now we are going back with John 3:16,” he said.