HUBER HEIGHTS, Ohio (WDTN) – Purple Heart cities are popping up across Ohio. The honor is given to cities who want to welcome veterans but also have a clear understanding of what the Purple Heart award is.
The Purple Heart is the oldest award given to those who are injured or killed protecting the United States in combat.
“We are the ones who made it back home. Even though we are wounded and scarred. We made it back,” said Jerry Ferris, a member of the Ohio State Military Order of the Purple Heart.
There are just under 40 Purple Heart communities in Ohio, including universities.
The highest concentration of Purple Heart communities just so happens to be right here in the Miami Valley.
“I think what it means to the city in a broader perspective is that we are committed to our military community members,” said Jeff Gore, the Mayor of Huber Heights.
Purple Heart cities will often post a sign welcoming veterans as they enter and leave the jurisdiction.
When a city is declared a Purple Heart city, they are entered into a database that helps traveling veterans find a place they can feel safe.
“It tells the veterans that travel across the country what cities are veteran-friendly. The ones that respect us. The ones that won’t spit or cuss at us,” said Randy Howson, a member of the Ohio State Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Howson also manages the Ohio State Purple Heart Trail.
If you are surprised to hear, “The ones that won’t spit or cuss at us,” you shouldn’t be. It happened to many veterans that served in Vietnam.
“I think the country has learned from that experience and they are all the time showing it,” said Stephen Ratcliffe, a Vietnam veteran.
A simple sign and an acknowledgment of gratitude goes a long way.
Purple Heart cities will also feature parking signs tailor-made for Purple Heart recipients.
“These signs will send that unannounced message that you are welcome here. You have earned this right to have this special spot,” said Howson.
If you’re a community leader or involved with a university, reach out to the Military Order of the Purple Heart to be considered.
Your efforts could make someone’s day.
“That’s the way to honor ’em. Let them know they are remembered,” said Ratcliffe.