Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

August 7, 2012

The color purple

TAHLEQUAH — Men and women who go into battle while serving in the U.S. armed forces often carried tangible scars.

On this day 230 years ago, Gen. George Washington created the “Badge for Military Merit” as a badge of distinction for enlisted men and noncommissioned officers who displayed any singularly meritorious action. The badge permitted its wearer to pass guards and sentinels without challenge, while the soldier’s name and regiment were inscribed in a “Book of Merit,” according to History.com.

Washington’s symbol of honor was awarded to just three known soldiers during the Revolutionary War: Elijah Churchill, William Brown and Daniel Bissell Jr.

Today, the Badge for Military Merit is known as the Purple Heart, the oldest American military decoration awarded for military actions. It is presented to members of the U.S. armed forces who have been killed or wounded in action against an enemy. Soldiers who have suffered maltreatment as prisoners of war may also receive the Purple Heart.

According to Marine Corps veteran John Cooper, of Tahlequah, the medal is earned at immeasurable cost and possesses inestimable value, though soldiers do not set out to win it. Cooper served with Mike Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines Division, during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

“It’s not something you need to be proud of, but at the same time, it’s not something you need to be ashamed of,” said Cooper.

He earned his Purple Heart 44 years ago during what became known as the Battle of Mike’s Hill.

“This was in January 1968. I don’t remember the exact day, but I do remember it was near the end of the month,” Cooper said. “We were between Khe Sanh and Camp Carroll. All heck broke loose about 5 in the morning. It was strictly a firefight, one nice little firefight. The explosive stuff came the day before. I was shot in my left leg and foot. It was something that just happened. I might have zigged when I should have zagged. In my case, it was so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.”

Americans who have family members or friends serving in the military may not always understand what the Purple Heart is and why it exists. Cooper noted the medal’s creator and his desire to lift up the men fighting for their country, despite being denied pay, food rations and needed supplies by their government.

“George Washington did this to honor the men who served bravely,” said Cooper. “Congress back then was silly. They didn’t have a lot of medals. This was something that Washington did to honor those men. Sometimes it was given just for bravery. It was first given out for honor. It wasn’t really a combat medal. I think it was just before World War II when they reinstituted the medal.”

According to purplehearts.net, the Badge for Military Merit – which originally was a purple cloth heart edged in silver braid worn over the left breast of the uniform – was instituted by Washington in 1782. What is known today as the Purple Heart was re-established in 1932 to mark the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birth.

The original criteria for earning the honor included acts of rare courage and displayed loyalty, and when reinstated in 1932, the medal’s criteria included anyone serving in the army who had received combat-related injuries or had received the AEF’s Meritorious Service Citation Certificate during World War I.

Then, in April 1942, the War Department amended the criteria eliminating use of the medal as a merit award and began recognizing the Purple Heart for all fatal and non-fatal wounds retroactive to Dec. 7, 1941.

It was on March 23, 1944, three miles from Nuremberg, Germany, just across the Rhine River, when World War II veteran Ed Bray, a private first class infantryman with the U.S. Army 94th Division, earned his Purple Heart.

Bray said the mission was “to take Nuremberg,” and it was on the approach when he was wounded while crossing a field.

“We were fixing to attack the bridge, and it was 7 in the morning,” he said. “They kind of nailed me. They got me five times.”

Retired Lt. Col. Michael Hunt has served as the Junior ROTC instructor at Tahlequah High School since retiring from active duty in 1997. He enlisted immediately after high school graduation, and was serving in Vietnam when he earned his Purple Heart in November 1970.

“We had been in contact with NVA forces for about a week on Hill 356, just outside Da Nang, and a couple of members of my unit had been wounded the day before from contact with the enemy,” said Hunt.

“We were sent back up the hill to recon and find out where the enemy was the next day. During contact that day, another member of my unit and myself were wounded. I was wounded in the right leg.”

 

To see the complete version of this article, subscribe to the Daily Press e-edition by following the link below.

Click here to get the entire Tahlequah Daily Press delivered every day to your home or office.

Click here to get a free trial or to subscribe to the Tahlequah Daily Press electronic edition. It's the ENTIRE newspaper (without the paper) for your computer, iPad or e-reader.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • ts-Trail-show-1.jpg Jackson takes prize

    Cherokee Heritage Center Museum Curator Mickel Yantz kicked off his 10th anniversary at the venue with the opening of the 43rd annual Trail of Tears Art Show this past Friday.
    “The Trail of Tears show was my first exhibit opening when I arrived 10 years ago,” said Yantz. “Since that time, the show has changed so dramatically; we’ve added so many new artists, and the art work has excelled over time. It’s like Christmas for me.”
    Yantz said he was exceptionally pleased with the opening reception.
    “We had a fantastic turnout,” said Yantz. “We had a lot of fun and sold some artwork, which is great for opening night.”
    The exhibit is on display at the Cherokee Heritage Center through May 26. This year’s show features 130 pieces of art spanning eight different categories, including basketry, graphics, jewelry, miniature, painting, pottery and sculpture.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • churchguy.jpg Some NSU students find Church of Monett offensive

    They turn heads every time they show up on campus, and some students at Northeastern State University are offended by their presence.
    The Church of Monett, Mo., has made periodic trips to Tahlequah to stage quiet demonstrations in public campus spaces in recent years. They carry signs that read, “Wives, Obey your Husbands,”; “To be Married to the divorced is Adultery”; and “Don’t be deceived: fornicators homosexuals idolaters adulterers thieves drunkards - shall not inherit God’s Kingdom.”

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Teen sent to hospital after being struck by tractor-trailer

    An 18-year-old Tahlequah man was struck by a tractor-trailer early Tuesday morning on the State Highway 51 bypass near Mimosa Lane.
    Tahlequah Police Capt. Tom Jones said officers responded to the scene at about 5:40 a.m., when Sage Sohns was found injured and lying in the road. A medical helicopter responded to the scene to transport Sohns to a Tulsa hospital, where he was being treated for a closed-head injury, police said.

    April 16, 2014

  • TPS board hears architect presentations for cafeteria

    Members of the Tahlequah Public Schools Board of Education heard from four architectural firms seeking a contract for construction at Cherokee Elementary School.
    TPS plans to build a cafeteria-auditorium and a music room with a stage, which may also serve as a safe room during storms.

    April 16, 2014

  • Briggs.jpg Local man hit with assault, burglary charges

    Prosecutors have formally charged a Tahlequah man accused of breaking into a motel room, tying a rope around a man’s neck and stabbing him repeatedly with a syringe.
    Jimmy Dale Briggs Jr., 33, is charged with first-degree burglary, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and two counts of threatening to perform an act of violence.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Boy whose mom scolded deputies in trouble again

    Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies arrested a 15-year-old theft suspect Monday night after he allegedly assaulted his brother.
    Deputy Kim Novak said authorities were dispatched to a home and ultimately took the teen into custody. While there, they also discovered items that had been reported stolen, including a bed and several tools.
    Novak said the teen is the same boy who has previously been found to be in possession of stolen items.

    April 16, 2014

  • plane-crash-1-a.jpg Plane crash victims recovering

    Two Arkansas men remained in a Tulsa hospital Monday after the plane they were flying crashed into a wooded area in Cookson.
    According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the 1946 Ercoupe 415 crashed under “unknown circumstances” about a mile from the Tenkiller Air Park in Cookson Saturday morning.
    The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says 75-year-old John McCreary and 85-year-old Albert Demarco Jr., both of Ozark, Ark., were flown from Cookson to St. John Medical Center in Tulsa.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • walker-terrance.jpg Man taken for blood sample confuses hospital with hotel

    Tahlequah police say an Austin, Texas, man stopped Saturday mistook a local hospital for a hotel when he was taken to have his blood drawn.
    Officer Cory Keele’s affidavit says 20-year-old Terrance Walker was driving south on Muskogee Avenue at about 2 a.m. Saturday, swerving from one line to another.
    Keele tried to stop the car near Muskogee and Chickasaw, and Walker eventually slowed to a stop near South Street.
    Walker opened the car door as Keele approached. The officer said Walker had dilated pupils.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • ennis-scottie.jpg Knife-cutting incident lands man in jail

    A Tahlequah man jailed for allegedly cutting a woman with a kitchen knife was released on a recognizance bond Monday.
    Scottie Lee Ennis, 42, was arrested after Officer Austin Yates was sent to Tahlequah City Hospital late Friday night.
    There, Yates spoke with Jennifer Pennell, who had apparently suffered a stab wound to her arm.
    Pennell told Yates she and her husband, Ennis, had gone to Dewain’s Place earlier in the evening, and while at the bar, a man bought her a drink.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • hawley-jeremy.jpg Tahlequah man bonds out after arrest for assault

    A 22-year-old Tahlequah man bonded out of jail Monday after his weekend arrest on domestic assault charges.
    Jeremy Hawley was booked into jail Sunday for domestic assault and battery in the presence of a minor and interfering with a 911 call.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
Undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Stocks