Purple Heart Day shines light on programs for Massachusetts veterans

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (WWLP) – Purple Heart Day is observed on August 7 each year to honor the brave men and women who were either wounded in battle or made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom.

Walking through the halls of the State House, you will find portrait after portrait honoring the brave men and women who have served this country. For example, one showing the 94th infantry division leaving a fiery and bloody battle scene in Germany during World War II.

But the scenes on the walls left soldiers with physical and mental injuries that stuck with them for the rest of their lives.

“It’s important for us as an organization that we include them to let them know that ‘hey we’re here for you,’ going forward if you have any issues because of your injuries, we have the people who can help and we can get you the help,” Bill LeBeau said.

Thirty names line the plaque at the Palmer Town Hall, honoring residents who have been awarded the purple heart, given to those who have been wounded or killed in combat. But collecting the names of those brave individuals was a bit of a mission in itself. One taken on by veterans services agent Troy Brin.

“Not a lot of people know, but there’s no national database of Purple Heart recipients, so we had to reach out, we spent about 18 months compiling names, and then just last year, we did the induction of the first 26 names,” Brin told 22News.

General George Washington first created the Purple Heart medal on August 7, 1782, and August 7 now marks National Purple Heart Day. Palmer chose the day to add four new names to their Purple Heart plaque. Purple Heart recipient William “Billy” Byrnes, a combat medic who served in Vietnam, was there to see the ceremony.

“Very solemn day for me, thinking back to July 14, 1968,” said Byrnes.

It was the day that earned Byrnes and members of his platoon their Purple Hearts, but not all of them would live to see them.

“Six-thirty in the morning, we get hit with a ground attack,” Byrnes explained. “Things went south from there. There were about 15 of us who were wounded. As a combat medic, I had my hands full.”

Byrnes said some who have served don’t like to talk about earning their medal or their time in combat, but he said the plaque can help draw more people out.

“A lot of times they sit back a lot of veterans, they won’t even mention a word to it,” said Byrnes. “But through therapy and things like that, it brings not only me out but a lot of other guys. And I like to help spread the word.”

The town also unveiled a new parking spot at the town hall for Purple Heart recipients. If you know a Palmer resident who received a Purple Heart, contact veterans services to add them to their plaque.

Through state-run programs, current soldiers, veterans and purple heart recipients can access resources to help them physically, emotionally and financially.

This is the fifth year in a row that the Commonwealth has celebrated Purple Heart Day, but on Wednesday and every other day, we celebrate those who live to serve a cause greater than their own.

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