SPRING HILL — Veterans who received a Purple Heart got their due from Hernando County recently, when eight special signs commemorating Purple Heart recipients were erected at various locations.
A formal unveiling ceremony was held March 20 at the intersection of Mariner Boulevard and County Line Road in Spring Hill. Over the following week, seven more were erected at Citrus Way, Snow Memorial Highway, Lake Lindsay Road, Burwell Road, Spring Lake Highway, Culbreath Road and Osowaw Boulevard.
On Nov. 7, 2017, Hernando County was designated the 65th Purple Heart county in Florida. The effort was spearheaded by Commissioners Jeff Holcomb and John Mitten, working with the Aaron A. Weaver Chapter 776 Military Order of the Purple Heart to gain the designation. The MOPH Chapter 776 is in Lecanto, the closest chapter to Hernando County.
Louis C. Gregoire, a Spring Hill resident who received a Purple Heart while serving in Vietnam in 1970, said he’s happy to see the county honoring wounded vets.
“It’s nice,” he said. “It’s good to see Spring Hill is recognized as a Purple Heart county.”
Gregoire, who was an Army Specialist, was wounded in the face and head by shrapnel from enemy mortar fire.
Norman Pickering, post commander of VFW Post 10209 is not far from the dedication site of the first sign. He was disappointed that his post could not provide the color guard for the unveiling at Mariner Boulevard.
“We were asked, but we had a funeral that day at Bushnell,” said Pickering, referring to Florida National Cemetery, in Sumter County. “But we are proud that they decided to honor our vets who received the Purple Heart.”
The Purple Heart was established by Gen. George Washington during the Revolutionary War as a badge of military merit for those wounded by an instrument of war by the enemy, according to a spokesperson for the MOPH. The organization is chartered by Congress and serves combat-wounded veterans who have received the Purple Heart.