Under a somber, but threatening sky, the formal dedication of the Purple Heart Memorial took place under the pavilion at Veterans Memorial Park Saturday morning. “One thing about Rolla and this community—this whole thing, like today—the support is just unbelievable.”
Under a somber, but threatening sky, the formal dedication of the Purple Heart Memorial took place under the pavilion at Veterans Memorial Park Saturday morning. It was a solemn and reverent occasion—solely for recognition for military men and women who received the Purple Heart Medal for wounds suffered in combat.
Local veteran and Purple Heart recipient Stoney Byrne was asked to do the dedication.
“Rolla and Phelps County are both a Purple Heart City and County, so it’s simply furthering the recognition,” he said. “It’s the acknowledgment of all of our brothers and sisters that were wounded in combat or that died in combat.”
Byrne says this monument will serve as a reminder, so when future generations come to the park, they’ll see it and ask about the Purple Heart and its significance.
“It is the only medal in existence that no one can recommend you for,” said veteran and Purple Heart recipient Richard Bratton, who made the drive from Waynesville.
“And nobody wants to earn it!” kidded Byrne.
“There are only certain conditions in combat that you’ll get it,” said Bratton, who served with the 1st Cavalry Division in Viet Nam in 1966 and 67.
“You get it during an incident under fire and you have to be evacuated to a hospital.”
“I was 20 years old when I went over there [as a draftee],” he said. “They took us to an auditorium there in Waynesville down at Fort Leonard Wood and some two-star general said ‘everyone in this auditorium will be in Viet Nam in eight weeks.’”
Bratton remembers 1200 to 1500 new soldiers in the auditorium that day.
“I was drafted and I felt it was an obligation to serve my country—that’s what I did,” he said.
According to Jerry Bumpus, chairman of the South-Central Regional Veterans Group, many veterans are ambivalent about recognition for having served in combat, and experienced enemy fire. “I’ve known many Purple Hearts [recipients],” he explains. “Many don’t want to be recognized.”
He says it’s hard to get veterans to participate in military recognition ceremonies. “I’ve got friends here and if you didn’t know them, you’d never know they had a Purple Heart.”
Putting it into perspective, he said many have suffered from their wounds for forty years or more, all for serving their country.
“I know this park means a lot [to the community of Rolla],” he adds. He says the Purple Heart monument is a fine addition to the park—another facet to remembering our service men and women. He is grateful for the talent, the design and manufacture of the monument by Larry Anson’s Phelps County Monument Company. Bumpus says the insetted tempered glass heart makes the monument special.
“They installed all these monuments,” he said, with a wave of this arm, directed at the grounds.
“One thing about Rolla and this community—this whole thing, like today—the support is just unbelievable.”
The dedication ceremony opened with the Missouri S&T ROTC color guard, Stoney Byrne’s remarks with John Dismer, the State commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart as the guest speaker.