Honoring Purple HeartsFeb 02, 2023 12:00AM ● By Story and photos by Bill Crocker
Yuba City American Legion Post 705 Rifle Team with Brock Bowen.
MARYSVILLE, CA (MPG) - A Purple Heart Trail ceremony was held at Marysville Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 948, Monday, January 23, 2023. This ceremony was the culmination of a five-year effort by VFW Senior Vice Commander Brock Bowen to add Marysville to the Purple Heart Trail. Five Purple Heart Trail signs have been erected along State Highways 20 and 70. The Purple Heart Trail is a symbolic and honorary system of roads, highways, bridges, and other monuments throughout the United States that give tribute to the military men and women who have been awarded the Purple Heart decoration.
Mr. Bowen began the ceremony by welcoming everyone with thanks to all veterans and a special thanks to Purple Heart recipients. Colors were posted by Purple Heart recipient Greg Columio; the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient Don Cornett; and Post 948 Chaplain Ron Bartlett led everyone in prayer.
The ceremony continued with VFW member Don Schrader welcoming the first speaker, Mike O’Connor. Army Chief Warrant Officer O’Connor flew the UH-1 helicopter, known as the Huey, during the Vietnam War. He was shot down during the Battle of Hue and spent a little over five years as a prisoner of war. He spoke passionately about the importance of the Purple Heart medal. He thanked those Purple Heart recipients present for their service and sacrifice. He asked that we not forget those mothers, fathers, wives, and other family members affected.
Yuba County District Attorney Clint Curry reviewed the history of the Purple Heart medal. George Washington established the Badge of Military Merit in 1782. Only three soldiers were given the medal. Mr. Curry noted that the three recipients were sergeants, not senior officers. He said this was an indication of the type of people we are. General Douglas MacArthur, who was War Department Chief of Staff at the time, reintroduced the medal as the Purple Heart on February 22, 1932, the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington. It is awarded in the name of the President to those wounded or killed while serving in the US military.
After Mr. Curry finished, Post 948’s three-man rifle team exited the building to the small area in the back. With everyone standing, and military personnel saluting, three volleys were fired, and Taps was bugled.
The ceremony’s keynote speaker was State Assemblyman James Gallagher who spoke about the Purple Heart Trail and its importance in recognizing the Purple Heart medal and those who are recipients. He also acknowledged the long process Mr. Bowen endured in his tenacious push for Marysville to be recognized as a part of this nationwide symbolic and honorary trail.
At the close of the keynote speech, all Purple Heart recipients were asked to stand to receive a Purple Heart challenge coin. Then Chaplain Bartlett led everyone in a closing prayer.
There was a general social gathering after the ceremony with coffee and donuts before the participants and attendees left the VFW building and reconvened at the Highway 70 site of one of Marysville’s five Purple Heart Trail signs. Assemblyman Gallagher provided a short dedication, as the sign was unveiled by Purple Heart recipients Mike O’Conner and Mike Salla. Yuba City’s American Legion Post 705 five-man rifle team fired three volleys in salute, and Taps was bugled marking the end of the ceremony.