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story.lead_photo.caption Westside Eagle Observer/RANDY MOLL Chuck Adkins Jr., commander in the Military Order of the Purple Heart (speaking, right) and Donald Martin, member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Wars presented a plaque to Gentry mayor Kevin Johnston on Thursday after Johnston read a proclamation declaring Gentry a Purple Heart City. A number of area veterans were in attendance despite the rain during the ceremony.

GENTRY -- As light rain fell on Thursday, a group of veterans and local residents gathered at the Veterans' Memorial in Gentry City Park to honor those wounded in action or killed to defend the United States and preserve the freedoms secured for Americans by the nation's founding fathers by joining other municipalities in becoming a Purple Heart City.

Following a prayer of thanksgiving for America's freedoms and a petition that they be preserved, Chuck Adkins Jr., commander of the Arkansas Military Order of the Purple Heart, spoke about the history of the Purple Heart and of the importance of honoring those who served their country and were wounded or killed in action defending America's freedoms.

Adkins said the Purple Heart has its roots in the Badge of Military Merit created in 1782 by General George Washington. He said the award was reestablished under President Herbert Hoover in 1932 and named the Purple Heart. It is awarded to those wounded in action and posthumously to the families of those killed in action. The Purple Heart trails and cities program was created in 1992 to honor those who have received the Purple Heart medal.

"Today, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Department of Arkansas, is honored to present Gentry, Arkansas, a plaque designating it a Purple Heart City," Adkins said. "In addition, the Military Order of the Purple Heart thanks Gentry for recognizing the service and sacrifices made by all veterans who have served our great nation and giving special tribute to those awarded the Purple Heart medal."

Kevin Johnston, Gentry's mayor, read the story of PFC David Mark Wieczorek, a Gentry resident killed on March 2, 1991, in southern Iraq when he stepped on a grenade-like component of an Allied bomb. Wieczorek, 21, was a private in the Army's 1st Cavalry Division and was the fourth Arkansan killed in action during the Gulf War. Wieczorek, a former basketball player at Gentry High School, was killed after an explosion sent him running toward his Bradley Fighting Vehicle. A reporter who witnessed the initial blast said Wieczorek stepped on a small metal cylinder that exploded.

Wieczorek's father died several years before his death. His mother, Helen, died during his senior year at Gentry High School. He was buried in Springtown Cemetary and his name is inscribed on the Veterans' Memorial in Gentry's city park.

Johnston then read a proclamation declaring Gentry a Purple Heart City and was presented a plaque by Donald Martin, member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The city had delayed action in becoming a Purple Heart City because council members wished to do more to honor veterans and those wounded or killed in action than simply placing road signs indicating Gentry is a Purple Heart City. The city was one of the last in the area to accept the designation, but the designation in Gentry is viewed as but one step in honoring those who have served and will serve in the military to defend America's freedoms.

General News on 02/28/2018

Print Headline: Gentry becomes Purple Heart City

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