Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

March 16, 2006

Cathy Jimenez

State Parks Searches For Purple Heart Recipients

National Purple Heart Hall of Honor to Preserve Stories

(ALBANY, NY, Wednesday, March 16, 2006...) New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Bernadette Castro today began a nationwide search for Purple Heart medal recipients to share stories to be included in exhibits at the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor museum located at the New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site in Vails Gate, New York. The facility will honor Purple Heart medal recipients, veterans who were wounded or killed while serving their country.

"The new National Purple Heart Hall of Honor will serve as our nation's only institution dedicated solely to recipients of the Purple Heart medal and offer visitors an incredible journey through military history across generations with a unique combination of historic resources and interactive, state-of-the-art technology," said Commissioner Castro. "Governor Pataki's commitment to preserving our heritage through this one of a kind museum will provide a destination for service men and women to share their powerful stories and poignant reminders of human sacrifice.

"This facility is a fitting tribute to the veterans who have put their lives on the line in support of freedom. I look forward to adding the details of my own family member who served in World War II at the Battle of the Bulge, and together with the information and recollections of other Purple Heart recipients and loved ones, the Hall of Honor will preserve these precious stories well into the future."

The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is a 7,500 square foot facility that will honor recipients of the Purple Heart Medal through the development and presentation of a series of exhibitions and programs that have been created with the participation of Purple Heart recipients, their friends and families. The Hall of Honor will work with veterans and families to collect invaluable personal information on the background and service information of each recipient, the circumstances surrounding their wounding, the photographs and letters home, and copies of discharge forms or citations that document receipt of the medal. The information collected will be included in exhibits at the museum and an electronic database that will be available onsite and over the Internet for a worldwide audience.

The Hall of Honor will also include a reception area, gallery, exhibit hall, learning and education center for school groups and tours, and presentation room. Through historical photographs documentary film footage, period objects and videotaped recollections by veterans themselves, the Hall will provide a multi-media show exploring the spirit of the American people during times of crisis.

"The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor will honor the nearly two million Americans whose sacrifices have earned them the Purple Heart medal. Now more than ever, it is important to recognize the men and women in our armed forces who were wounded in battle for this country, and those who continue to serve so faithfully today," said Senator Bill Larkin, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. "This historic place will be a reminder of the cost of freedom. It will be a fitting tribute to our veterans and how much we value and appreciate all they have done for our country. It will bring young people especially that much closer to understanding the experience and sacrifice shared by these special veterans."

Governor Pataki has committed $4.1 million toward the planning, design and development of the Hall of Honor. Other funds to support the project include $402,000 in federal HUD/VA funds secured by U.S. Representative Sue Kelly and additional donations from veterans and their families. The Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), the national organization whose members are Purple Heart recipients, has contributed $500,000 toward the project.

"Every Purple Heart veteran is a hero whose story needs to be told so we can fully honor their sacrifices and learn from their experiences," said Congresswoman Sue Kelly. "The Hall of Honor will uniquely highlight these stories and will inspire our community to preserve the legacy of our military heroes and better appreciate the freedoms for which they fought."

The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is located at the site of the final encampment of George Washington's Army at New Windsor Cantonment and plays a central role in the history of the Purple Heart. To honor service of his troops, General Washington chose a select number of troops to receive a purple cloth Badge of Merit, the precursor to the Purple Heart Award. The present day Purple Heart medal took as its inspiration the color and shape of the badge and added the image of George Washington to honor the man who valued the outstanding service of his soldiers. In 1932, the new Purple Heart medal was presented to 150 World War I veterans at the New Windsor Cantonment site and the medal has been presented to over a million military personnel.

Families who would like to share their story or other materials of Purple Heart recipients to be considered for the exhibition or archives to support the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, please contact the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, P.O. Box 207, Vails Gate, New York, 12584 or call (845) 561-1765. Tax deductible gifts to the Hall in support of the ongoing development of the memorial and museum are also being accepted.