The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, in conjunction with sponsors American Airlines and ShopRite Supermarkets, hosted a two-day event for purple heart recipients to tour and enjoy key areas around the Hudson Valley, culminating in a Welcome Home Rally at the Newburgh Armory.
In total, 33 veterans, from 30-states were honored one final time before heading back home at the hour-long ceremony Tuesday evening.
Russ Vernon, retired Colonel of the Army National Guard and Newburgh resident served as master of ceremonies, introducing and then sharing the stage for the evening with the 33 veterans.
Following the introduction of the veterans and invocation, guest speaker Paul Bucha, himself a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Medal of Honor recipient, took the stage and delivered a powerful speech to the hundreds in attendance.
Bucha focused much of his speech on the importance of honor as a building block for leadership saying, “One of the most important ingredients in leadership is honor, because trust comes from honor. If in fact you are known to be a liar you cannot lead.” Bucha concluded this thought with, “We have to teach the young kids coming in our footsteps that it’s not worth compromising your honor for whatever false thing you might receive from that.”
Prior to leaving the stage Bucha offered another pearl of wisdom from his years in leadership through a powerful story of the harsh realities of commanding troops in conflict.
“There was a picture taken of me and the 101st division and the morning after our battle I saw my third platoon leader sitting up, he was my first KIA; and every ounce of my body went through my eyes to the ground. That taught me that love is the foundation as well as honor for leadership. “We need to never allow someone to tell us that’s wrong.”
After the theme songs of the various branches of the military were sung, Vernon took the stage once more to close out the evening, doing so with a quote from a poem of another servicemen.
“I would like you to listen carefully to the words of army veteran Charles Prevant which are powerful and on point,’ he said. “It is the soldier sailor not the reporter who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier sailor not the poet who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier sailor not the campus organizer who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier and the sailor who salutes the flag who serves beneath the flag whose coffin is draped in the flag who allows the protester to burn the flag.”