It doesn’t have to be Purple Heart Day for Niagara County residents to honor the sacrifices of those who served in the U.S. military and were injured or killed in combat.
In reality, everyday should be “Purple Heart Day” for all Americans as there’s no doubt the efforts of all those who served in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces have protected the freedoms this country holds dear for decades.
Still, when an occasion like Purple Heart Day comes along as it did on Wednesday, it’s good to see local officials creating an environment where members of the military and their families can receive a little extra recognition.
Celebrated each year on Aug. 7, Purple Heart Day is designed to commemorate the creation of America’s oldest decoration for military merit. The purpose has changed since the award was created during the Revolutionary War. Today, the Purple Heart is reserved for men and women who were either wounded or killed in combat.
In Niagara County alone, there are more than 300 individuals who have qualified for the military honor.
All of them are certainly worthy of recognition on Purple Heart Day and this year, thanks to officials in Niagara County, these courageous veterans and their family members were afforded the opportunity to be saluted for their service during a ceremony at Raymond Klimek Veteran’s Park in North Tonawanda.
The county’s event drew a considerable crowd as dozens of Purple Heart recipients and members of their family and friends took part. The ceremony began with a performance from the American Legion Band, which was followed with a flyover by the Whiskey 7 C-47 transport plane, which was part of the airborne invasion of Normandy on D-Day. The names of all Purple Heart recipients from Niagara County - both living and deceased - were read aloud during the event. A bell was rung for each soldier who was killed in action. Living recipients who were able to attend the ceremony were each presented with a pin and commemorative coin.
Niagara County Clerk Joe Jastrzemski and his staff took the lead on putting the event together and they are deserving of credit for highlighting the day of remembrance which did not receive this level of attention in any other county in the Western New York area.
Jastrzemski’s office also provided the Niagara Gazette and the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal with a full list of all Niagara County Purple Heart recipients, which was published in Thursday’s print editions.
While it is necessary for our editorial board to question and even criticize local officials when members feel their decision-making or leadership may be flawed, it is equally important for our newspapers to recognize jobs well done when we see them.
We, of course, salute all county residents - both living and deceased - whose service to our country resulted in their receiving the meritorious Purple Heart award.
We also credit Jastrzemski, the staff at the county clerk’s office and all those local officials and public employees who helped put together this year’s Purple Heart Day celebration.
It was a worthy cause and worthwhile event that put Niagara County - and its Purple Heart recipients - in a class by themselves in our region.