HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Nearly 20 recipients of the Purple Heart gathered at the Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial Park Thursday morning for a re-dedication of their monument.
The monument was ordered by the Madison County chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart more than eight years ago. At that time, Veterans Memorial Park was just an idea. So, the monument was placed at the US Space and Rocket Center.
The park eventually opened in Downtown Huntsville in 2011 and last year, the red granite marker was finally moved to a more appropriate home. However, officials wanted the re-dedication to coincide with Armed Forces Week, which meant they had to wait until this week for the ceremony.
Hal Meeks, a retired Army major who received two purple hearts for service in Vietnam, called it “a great day.” Meeks was honored during the ceremony with a citation, in part for his work to help veterans.
George Lung was another Purple Heart recipient in attendance. The World War II veteran says the military offered to discharge him after he was wounded in the North Africa campaign but, “I told them, ‘no. I want to stay in until I finish what I started when I enlisted.'”
The exact number of Purple Heart recipients is unknown. It is given to qualifying military members who are killed or injured in combat and is the oldest military decoration still in use in the US, having first been established by George Washington on August 7, 1782 – exactly 232 years before the re-dedication of Madison County’s monument.