Phelps County Residents have the opportunity today to honor veterans and who have been granted the Purple Heart, the award given to those wounded or killed in the line of service. A dedication of a recently installed Purple Heart Memorial will take place at the Veterans Memorial Park in Rolla.

Since the award was established, a consistent record of the number of Purple Heart recipients hasn’t been kept, according to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, an organization dedicated to building a database of Purple Heart recipients. However the organization estimates that at this time, 1.8 million Purple Hearts have been awarded.

Jerry Bumpus, chairman of the South-Central Regional Veterans Group which manages the park, said the committee felt it was important to have this memorial join the others already in the park, and even more important to have a dedication for it.

A Purple Heart monument is a little different that a typical monument,” he said. “We needed to dedicate it.”

Bumpus said that veterans who have earned the Purple Heart are a “select group.”

“We felt the people that earned the Purple Heart deserved to have a monument at our park,” he said. After some brief deliberation by the committee, the monument was ordered and installed in early August.

The award was created in 1782 by George Washington, but fell into disuse for a number of years. The Purple Heart was later resurrected by General Douglas MacArthur, who led a campaign to revive the medal to recognize the bravery of those wounded in the line of duty.

The memorial itself features a tempered glass inlay that won’t fade, and Bumpus said the committee was told it is the first memorial like it in the state of Missouri. According to Bumpus, the only Purple Heart monument resides in the Missouri State Veterans Cemetery at Fort Leonard Wood.

The dedication of the monument will be given by local veteran Stoney Byrne, who has not one, but two Purple Hearts to his name. The Waynesville Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart will also be in attendance, as well as Purple Heart recipients and other veterans from around Phelps County.

Bumps said that everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend the ceremony, regardless if they are a veteran or not.

“Just…support the park, and the people who have been awarded the Purple Heart,” he said.

The Veterans Memorial Park is the only memorial park in Phelps County, according to Bumpus, and is open for community members to reserve for events, or simply to enjoy the walking trail.

The dedication of the Purple Heart monument will take place at 10 a.m., and will move under the pavilion if it’s raining.