Rolla became a Purple Heart City, and Phelps County became a Purple Heart County Friday afternoon at a ceremony held at Veterans Memorial Park.

Rolla became a Purple Heart City, and Phelps County became a Purple Heart County Friday afternoon at a ceremony held at Veterans Memorial Park.

Mayor Bill Jenks III had signed a proclamation and the Phelps County Commission had passed a resolution that designated the city and county as Purple Heart governments.

Members of The Military Order of the Purple Heart visited Rolla Friday, which was Flag Day, to participate in a ceremony with the public and with representatives of the local governments.

Everett L. Kelly, commander of the Department of Missouri for The Military Order of the Purple Heart, presented plaques and flags to the three members of the Phelps County Commission and to Rolla City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Louis Magdits.

Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp, District One Commissioner Larry Stratman and District Two Commissioner Gary Hicks took turns reading the county's proclamation.

Magdits also read the city's proclamation before receiving the city's plaque and flag.

The mayor pro tem prefaced his remarks by saying Jenks would be happy to be a part of the ceremony, if he had been available to attend, for he was a commissioned military officer.

Magdits also noted the Purple Heart "is the only military award that is not based on a recommendation." It is based on specific criteria, given only to individuals who are killed or wounded by weapons held by enemy combatants.

That is the "how" of the award, Magdits said, but what's more important is the "why" of the award. In other words, why are men and women willing to put themselves into a position where receiving an award for dying or being wounded is a possibility?

"It is love of country," Magdits said, noting that means "love for the rest of us."

Purple Heart recipients Les Burris and Stoney Byrne raised the city's Purple Heart Flag immediately at the Pentagon monument in the Veterans Memorial Park as part of the ceremony.

A recording of taps was played by emcee Jerry Bumpus, commander of the South Central Regional Veterans Group.

The county's flag will be raised in front of the Phelps County Courthouse.

The ceremony opened with prayer led by John Grabiel of the Rolla VFW Post.

Bumpus introduced many dignitaries, including State Sen. Dan Brown, State Rep. Keith Frederick and Rolla City Administrator John Butz.

But the true dignitaries of the day were the men who received Purple Hearts, including Harold St. Onge, who received two Purple Hearts and the Silver Star. Those men sat in front of the Pentagon monument and later posed for photographs to commemorate the occasion.

Edgar Springs and St. James are also Purple Heart cities, along with the cities of Waynesville, St Robert, and most recently, Crocker.

Pulaski County is a Purple Heart County.

Interstate 44 has been designated a Purple Heart Trail.