GENESEO — Livingston County made history as the first to be designated a Purple Heart County.
On Aug. 7 Livingston County Officials, Livingston County Veteran Services Agency, Livingston County American Legion, Federal and State Officials and Purple Heart Recipients came out to honor the reveal of the Purple Heart County signs that will be placed on several roads leading to the county.
Jason Skinner, Livingston County Veteran Services Agency director, said he was honored to be part of this historic day.
“I would like to thank everyone for coming, especially our military veterans. Today is National Purple Heart Day,” he said. “Today is the day about celebrating those who received a Purple Heart. I wanted to recognize those faces who have lived among us. Often they continue to serve our communities in different uniforms after military service. We do appreciate you continuing to serve our community.
“All of our veterans no matter the circumstance of how they got into the military have all taken the same oath,” Skinner continued. “All gave some and some gave all. Our veteran community understands this and holds it sacred. Those who were prisoners of war, missing in action, and for those who never came back. Those wounded in direct enemy combat were awarded Purple Hearts. They live with those injuries and have to cope with them everyday.”
Tom Reynolds, Vietnam War Veteran and Purple Heart Recipient, said this was a long time coming.
“I grew up in Lima and this is the first time the Purple Heart is being recognized,” he said. “I remember what we went through when we came back from Vietnam, and I am very glad to be here today. I want to thank the county.”
Walter Eckhardt, Korean War Veteran and Purple Heart Recipient, said that he was wounded in June 4, 1951.
“I had two Purple Hearts sent to me, but I gave one of them back. I was hospitalized in Japan, and I got a Purple Heart there. I was sent back overseas to Boston, and I got a Purple Heart there too,” he said. “I was in the 8063rd Mash Unit. I got wounded when a shell fragment went through my arm, and it severed a nerve. They put me on a medical train that took me to Japan. I was flown from there to Boston. I didn’t get out of the hospital until April 1952.”
Eckhardt spent three years in active duty after he got out of the hospital. He had joined up once the war started. He spent 30 years in the Army Reserves after that having retired in 1989.
“I thought if college didn’t work out for me I should go back into the Army,” he said. “I wanted to join the Army Reserves, so I didn’t have to start over again. I was in the National Guard for two years, before I was in the Korean War. The day I started was the day the war began.”
Eckhardt said that this was the very first time he pinned the Purple Heart on his chest.
Annie Chwiecko, representing NYS Sen. Patrick Gallivan, talked about how her son coming back from the war with some problems.
“I am honored to be here and look you all in the eye. I want to recognize all of you as Purple Heart Recipients,” she said. “You took the oath and never knew the impact it was going to make on your life.”
Joseph Errigo, NYS Assemblyman and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, was honored to be part of the ceremony.
“I am proud to be here today. I served as a Marine, and I just love this country,” he said. “I will do everything and anything I can do to help veterans. I am so proud to be an American.”
David LeFeber, Livingston County Board of Supervisors chairman, said he is very thankful for all the hard work Skinner did on this.
“I want to thank all the Purple Heart Recipients for their sacrifices and all they did for our freedom,” he said. “They helped make this country what it is, and it stands
on top of the world for freedom. You make this country great.”
Charles DiPasquale, Mount Morris supervisor and U.S. Army Veteranm said that all the veterans have given so much to the country.
“I didn’t serve beside you guys in the foxholes, but I was there when they went in, and when they came home,” he said. “I saw some that figured the war was never over. It is great to see our veterans here today. Anytime a veteran needs something from me I just don’t care what it is he is going to get it.”
David Fanaro, Leicester supervisor and U.S. Air Force Veteran said that he has a lot of gratitude for the Purple Heart Recipients.
“The New York States Military is a passion of mine. My father was a U.S. Marine. He also received a Purple Heart. It is great to be able to dedicate and honor our veterans who are Purple Heart Recipients today.”
Michael J. Falk, Lima supervisor and U.S Army Veteran said that this day was a great way to thank everyone for their service.
“Today is a great day to be in Livingston County,” he said. “We are here to honor those who sacrificed extra. I am grateful the United States is what we make it to be. You all made this country a fantastic place for us. As we drive into the county you remember your sacrifice, and the quiet gratitude we all have.”
Timothy Collmer, Livingston County American Legion commander is thankful the county took charge on this special moment.
“We honor our veterans each and every day. We pay our respects to veterans,” he said. “We want you to remember we are there to help and to listen.”
Congressman Chris Collins and Sen. Catharine Young sent letters to be read, and thanked the Purple Heart Recipients for all they have done to make this country great.