Purple Heart Day acknowledges all wounded veterans

Steve Hyde, regional field supervisor for the Military Order of the Purple Heart in Des Moines, said he gets excited when he sees the organization’s logo displayed on a license plate.

That means he has another opportunity to follow the driver into a parking lot, or elsewhere, and let them know all the benefits of receiving the distinguished award.

Providing claim assistance to all veterans and their dependents throughout the United States, offering scholarships to honorees and their families, and lobbying elected officials are but three of the critical roles the MOPH serves, Hyde said.

And he has another solid reason for chasing license plates: No national database of Purple Heart awardees exists, he said.

Hyde, who lives in Marshalltown, and other MOPH officers will be on the lookout for honorees Wednesday, and designated Purple Heart Day.

It was 231 years ago, on Aug. 7, 1782, in Newburgh, New York, that Gen. George Washington designed a new badge of distinction for enlisted men and noncommissioned officers.

The “Badge of Merit” as named by Washington, was for Revolutionary War soldiers to recognize bravery and fidelity,

Now, the Purple Heart, per regulation, is awarded in the name of the President of the United States to any member of the Armed Services of the U.S., who, while serving, has been wounded, killed, or has died after being wounded.

Death or wounds caused by friendly fire is included.

It is one of the oldest awards given to military members.

Washington had recommended the award be a permanent one, but once the Revolutionary War ended, it was forgotten.

In 1932 it became known as the Purple Heart, in recognition of Washington’s ideals and for the bicentennial of his birth.

A number of living central Iowans have earned the award, according to Bill Campbell, MOPH, Chapter 777 in West Des Moines.

They are: Wayne Brown, Todd Eipperle, John Helfer, Hyde, George Kremenak, Roger Nason and Don Westphal all of Marshalltown, and Duane Otto of Nevada.

Hyde earned his Purple Heart while serving in Vietnam.

Additionally, during the War on Terror, he served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq as a member of a National Guard unit.

He has worked as field supervisor two years and previously was employed as national service officer four years.

Hyde, said license plate chasing, attending Veterans Days events, and performing other outreach is all part of the job.

He said he relishes the opportunities to meet fellow awardees. Hyde is also excited to talk about a program celebrating the Purple Heart Aug. 10 at Camp Dodge in Johnston.

Guest speakers include: author Tony Powers, former WHO radio and television broadcaster and Vietnam Purple Heart recipient; Matt Harvey, director of the Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center; and Mary Ellen White, a nurse who served in Vietnam in 1967. U.S Navy Cdr. (ret.) Larry Spencer, a former Vietnam POW and Purple Heart recipient, will emcee the event.

“I encourage all Iowans to attend the Aug. 10 event at Camp Dodge,” Hyde said.

For more information about MOPH, contact Hyde at 515-362-736.