By Assemblyman Will Barclay
On Aug. 7, 1782, George Washington first presented a Badge of Military Merit to soldiers for “any singularly meritorious action.” The award he created from his headquarters in Newburgh, NY, was a purple, heart-shaped piece of silk and had the word “merit” stitched across the front. Only three known soldiers received the honor.
Thankfully in 1932, the award was resurrected by General Douglas MacArthur and the Military Order of the Purple Heart was announced by the U.S. War Department.
Since then, the number Purple Hearts that have been awarded is not known but the White House estimates it be around 2 million. Purple Hearts are generally reserved for men and women who have been killed or wounded in action.
New York and other states have declared Aug. 7 as Purple Heart Day. On this day, we pause to honor all the recipients of the military’s oldest honor.
Unfortunately, the number of Purple Hearts awarded has grown significantly. As many as 55,000 Purple Hearts have been awarded to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in recent years and the number continues to grow.
We must continue to honor and advocate for veterans.
I was pleased to support two efforts in particular this session designed to help veterans and their families. This year, the Legislature passed the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Program. This bill directs that information be provided to veterans, their families and health care providers with respect to both TBI and PTSD. Current military efforts often involve long, dangerous and repeated tours of duty, with our soldiers and their families performing above and beyond the call of duty.
Providing the information they need is the first step for many. This bill passed both the Senate and the Assembly unanimously.
It has not yet been delivered to the Governor.
Another bill that passed the Assembly unanimously but was not taken up in the Senate unfortunately was the Peer Support Network for Veterans. This bill (A6516) directs the Office of Mental Health in coordination with the Division of Veterans’ Affairs and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to establish regional peer support services programs for veterans.
The support of peers, or individuals who have had similar experiences, are valuable for people in all walks of life, but especially with veterans in helping them heal from the scars of war. Furthermore, peer counseling is a proven method of helping veterans overcome their condition.
I will continue to advocate for this next year.
Quilts of Valor
This month I had the opportunity to meet with local women who completed quilts for a project called Quilts of Valor Foundation.
It’s a national organization that seeks to give quilts to wounded soldiers.
A number of local quilters made quilts that will be given to veterans who have been wounded in combat.
This is just one of many examples of people from the district showing their gratitude for those who serve and protect our country. I am often overwhelmed by our community’s outpouring for veterans and proud to attend and be a part of so many local efforts that show our collective gratitude.
If you have any questions or comments or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.