Editor's Note: This is part of our continuing Celebrate Community coverage, which recognizes North Okaloosa County nonprofits that make a difference in our lives.
CRESTVIEW —Okaloosa County Purple Heart recipients have a local chapter organized specifically for combat-wounded service members.
Although membership is restricted to the combat wounded, the Military Order of the Purple Heart supports all veterans and their families, according to the organization’s website.
Named for a DeFuniak Springs 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) soldier killed in action in Afghanistan in 2007, the Sgt. Timothy Padgett Chapter 811, Military Order of the Purple Heart, was established in May 2008.
The local chapter’s community projects include:
• Leadership and participation in patriotic events and ceremonies
• Recognition and support of area high school JROTC programs
• Support of Heroes on the Water
• Providing speakers for meetings and events
• Assisting families of deceased military members and veterans with final arrangements, counseling and bereavement
• Doing research and historical data collection
• Advising veterans with benefits assistance and counseling
• Recognizing Northwest Florida State College nursing students for academic achievement
• Providing advice and expertise on veteran related issues for local government, committees, businesses and active duty military
• Making visits to assisted living facilities
• Partnering with Blue Star Mothers, Chapter 7, and the NWFSC nursing program to enhance veteran and active duty services
PURPLE HEART DAY
Through the local Purple Hearts chapter, State Road 20 through Okaloosa County was designated a Purple Heart Highway. Crestview was proclaimed the organization’s first Purple Heart City, and Okaloosa was named Florida’s first Purple Heart County.
In August, the chapter participated in “Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive,” a nationwide celebration of the end of World War II and the men and women of what has been called “The Greatest Generation.”
“Chapter 811 was instrumental in having Aug. 7 of each year designated as Florida Purple Heart Day, which is now a nationwide recognition day, as well as having the month of January each year designated as Okaloosa County Purple Heart Month and Blue Star Mothers Month,” chapter commander Sam Houston stated in a media release.
WALL OF FALLEN HEROES
The chapter also is the official caretaker of the Florida Wall of Fallen Heroes, housed at the Air Force Armament Museum, Houston said.
“That wall was designated for Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom,” Houston said. “Technically it was to be retired, but we are going to continue honoring our fallen because the global war on terror continues.”
Just this year five Floridians gave their lives in the war against terror, and will be added to the wall.
Working with the Armament Museum, the Purple Heart chapter has established a location for a memorial garden and park on the museum grounds. Baker resident and veteran Bill Everett will chair a committee to design it.
“We’ll be asking for donations, such as from families who might want to plant a tree or provide a bench in memory of fallen family members,” Houston said.
“In order to continue at this high level we are hoping to improve in our recruitment efforts,” Houston said. “It is estimated that there are over 1,000 recipients of the Purple Heart just in Okaloosa County, and we have not begun to scratch the surface of getting additional members.”