Maine Purple Heart Recipients Honored At The State House
More than 30 veterans were honored in Augusta as part of National Purple Heart Day.The flags outside the State House flew at half-staff, while inside the building more than two dozen Maine veterans were honored with the Maine Silver Star Honorable Service Medal. The award is presented by the state to military members who were given the Purple Heart for wounds they received in combat. “We are a very grateful state for the heroes that you’ve been, to the wars that you’ve served in,” Governor LePage told the veterans. “It’s amazing, I was reading the list today and some of you were heroes before I was born. That’s how far back it goes. I’m an old dude now.”Governor LePage declared it Purple Heart day in Maine, in conjunction with National Purple Heart Day. The Purple Heart is one of the oldest military decorations the United States has dating back to the days of George Washington, when he was the Commander in Chief during the Revolutionary War. It was originally called the Award of Military Merit. “The interesting thing about it is it was one of the first decorations instituted by a major western country that was offered to both officers and enlisted men,” said Colonel Maine’s Acting Adjutant General, and noted military history buff, James Campbell. The United States military has handed out around 2 million Purple Hearts over the years, 335 to Maine veterans including, Vietnam Veteran Noah Witt from China. “It’s a great honor to be recognized,” Witt said. “You know it’s something that’s 42 years coming.”Witt was injured in a firefight in 1970, a night that he says changed his life. “At 10:00 at night, the Viet Cong came through and started spitting machine gun fire,” he recalls. “When the machine gun fire came through, I stood up to get off the bunker and I got nailed 4 times with the machine gun.” All four shots hit him in his legs.Witt says he still knows of some Vietnam veterans who are Purple Heart recipients, and eligible for the Maine Silver Star Honorable Service Medal, but haven’t come forward to get it out of bitterness over the way they were treated when they returned home from the war. “They refuse to come forward. I even asked one of my friends to show up with me today, but he said, ‘Nah it ain’t worth it.’” The folks at Maine Veterans Services want to make sure those who have received a Purple Heart and are eligible for this medal get one. Those veterans can call 430-6034 to make arrangements.