The city of Pekin was named on May 28 a Purple Heart Community by the Military Order of the Purple Heart in honor of the men and women from the community who have been injured in the line of duty.
Mayor John McCabe, a Purple Heart recipient, accepted the flag of the organization on behalf of the city. It will be displayed at the Pekin Municipal Building. McCabe said a decision is not yet final on placement of the flag, but one of the most favorable suggestions is to put it on a flag staff in the main lobby of City Hall with the proclamation and photo displayed with it.
“I’ve been a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart as long as I’ve been mayor — maybe even longer,” said McCabe. “One of the things that I discovered (is) that, like other military fraternal organizations, they do a lot to raise money to help disabled veterans in particular, but also they’ve done some things with regard to education programs, education grants.
“But the idea of a community being recognized as a Purple Heart community signifies that a number of people in the community have received a purple heart and that they have an active chapter that is trying to do what they can to benefit veterans and benefit the community.”
The Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 175, which includes Pekin, has donated money to many causes, helped veterans in the greater Pekin area with home accessibility issues, helped get a special adaptation for wheelchairs, and more.
The Order of the Purple Heart is the only military organization that is based upon a specific medal, said McCabe. All members are recipients of the Purple Heart.
Joe Schaler, commander of the Hayes-Krell Chapter 159 Military Order of the Purple Heart of Springfield said that he has never before presented the flag to a mayor who was a Purple Heart recipient. McCabe was injured in 1971 while serving as an infantryman on Hill 509 in Quảng Trị Province in the north central coast region of Vietnam. McCabe said he was hit in the head by a small piece of shrapnel from a concussion grenade that exploded a few feet from his feet. He was on a medical ship for nine days with hearing loss, which he recovered from.
Schaler said there are about five counties and approximately 30 cities in the state of Illinois with designations as Purple Heart communities.
“I know this is the first city where your mayor has a Purple Heart,” said Schaler.
On Aug. 7, 1782, the Badge of Merit was created by Gen. George Washington. It later became the Purple Heart, said Schaler. The Badge of Merit was to be awarded to honor soldiers and non-commissioned officers for meritorious acts. It was worn over the left breast in the figure of a heart with a purple cloth and white lace. The present-day Purple Heart replaced the Badge of Merit in the 20th Century, said Schaler.