Purple Heart ceremony honors military heroes

The Finis J. Self Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, representing Morgan and Cullman Counties, honored more than 230 recipients of the Purple Heart award at a memorial service in Sparkman Park on Saturday morning.

A highlight of the program was the reading of the names of each Purple Heart medalist whose name is inscribed on monuments at the Purple Heart Memorial, followed by the sounding of a bell located behind the memorial.

Hartselle Mayor Don Hall, State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, State Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, and Cullman County Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker read the names and chapter member Robert Turner sounded the bell.

Miniature Purple Heart flags were presented to family members and close friends of Purple Heart recipients after their names were called.

Hall, a U.S. Army Airborne veteran, was the guest speaker. He urged veterans to related their wartime experiences to their children and grandchildren.

“I know it’s hard for you to talk about the things you experienced when you served in the armed forces,” he said, “but let them know the high price that has to be paid for their freedom. That’s where patriotism begins.”

Priceville ROTC Cadets Andrew Pestona, Kenia Torres, Terry Brandon, Steward Reding and Bethany Aldridge posted the colors. As the American flag was being hoisted and positioned at half mast, SFC Donna Johnson sang the Star Spangled Banner. Afterwards, the audience repeated the pledge to the flag.

George Mills, a prisoner of war in World War II, related the history of the POW/MIA table, identifying each item on the table including the empty chair. He was assisted by Woody Carpenter.

Mary Ellen Hartness, read the words of the song “Will I Be Forgotten, Too?”

Chapter Commander Clifford Gissell served as emcee. The opening prayer was given by Chaplain retired Col. David McGowin.

Boy Scouts from Troop 321 in Cullman assisted with parking and distributed programs. The Patriot Riders, including seven Buffalo Riders from Huntsville, participated in the event.

The program was concluded with Johnson’s singing of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” followed by the playing of taps by Steve Larsen.

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