Cities across Gwinnett and the greater Atlanta area are proclaiming themselves “Purple Heart Cities” to show solidarity for those wounded while serving in the US Armed Forces. Among those in the city of Snellville, where Mayor Barbara Bender issued a proclamation to designate the city and its roadways.
“Whereas on August 27, 2018, the City of Snellville was designated a Purple Heart City after creating a proclamation for Purple Heart veterans, offering a designated parking space at City Hall for Purple Heart Recipients and having signs placed declaring the City a Purple Heart City at City Limit Roadways,” states the Proclamation which the Mayor read on August 12, 2019 during a council meeting at City Hall. Stemming from a tradition established by George Washington, US veterans who were wounded in combat receive a Purple Heart Badge for their acts of patriotism. Congress chartered the Military Order of the Purple Heart in 1932, and in 1992, it declared August 7th national Purple Heart Day.
“We are one of the smallest veterans’ groups, because of the fact that you do have to be a combat-wounded veteran, and incidentally most of our members are deceased,” said Lou Zayas, Commander of Chapter 465.
Chapter 465 is the largest in the state, spanning from north of Gwinnett into Atlanta and past Macon. In recent years, the members have gone on an offensive to attract new members and spread awareness throughout municipalities.
The City of Norcross became a Purple Heart City in 2018, along with the city of Snellville. Now, Stone Mountain, Sandy Springs, and many others are adopting the organization. On November 14th, the Mayor of Loganville will issue a proclamation naming Loganville a Purple Heart City, at City Hall at 6:30 p.m.
Many cities, including Atlanta, are also lighting purple displays to show their support. Zayas plans to encourage local cities, as well as businesses and even the federal government to follow suit.
“Our crown jewel last year was getting the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport to light up the canopy and tower purple. We’ve also gotten the King and Queen [buildings] to do it, and I used that as leverage to get the city of Norcross to light up trees in the downtown area,” Zayas said, revealing, the new Veterans Park in Norcross will be lit purple next year after it is completed. “Now, I’m hoping next year we can light up the White House purple. I have contacted folks in Washington D.C. to see if they could do something for us next year, and it would be awesome if that came about.”
Zayas considers the chapter’s recent expansion a result of a team effort. “Folks in it now are getting more involved. There’s more delegation,” he said recognizing other members, including Trustee Don Bullard; Robert Nelson, Adjutant; James Gordon, Department Adjutant, all of whom were wounded while serving in the Vietnam War.
The chapter is actively looking for new members, associates and civilian affiliates to come to their meetings held on the third Saturday of the month at Atlanta’s City Hall from noon until 2 p.m.
“We talked about doing it closer to Gwinnett, but for some [who live near Macon], it’s just too far. So, we meet in Atlanta, and they are open 24/7 and have security 24/7. So, anyone can just come on Saturday and show up,” Zayas said.
The chapter recently pulled off their most profitable Annual Golf Tournament ever, which was held on August 5th at Heritage Golf Links, Tucker, Georgia. “We try to help people get their VA benefits, housing, and we visit nursing homes to make sure they know they’re not forgotten. Nobody gets left behind,” said Zayas, who served in Vietnam as a helicopter gunner from 1966 -‘67.
Zayas encourages sympathetic civilians and veterans alike to donate to Military Order of the Purple Heart by visiting the website (http://www.purpleheartatlants.org) and selecting the “Donate” button.