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Medford becomes a 'Purple Heart City'

Medford became the second city in Oregon to become a "Purple Heart City," a designation that honors the almost two million veterans since World War I who have received the military decoration.

Mayor Gary Wheeler made the proclamation Thursday before the City Council.

About two dozen veterans showed up for the presentation, including Larry Rupp, commander of the Rogue Valley Military Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 147.

"This recognition is for all veterans," Rupp said. "It's almost like a city saying thank you."

Rupp said Albany is the only other city in Oregon to become a Purple Heart City. It accepted the recognition at the end of January.

The Purple Heart is bestowed on members of the U.S. military who have been killed or wounded in action.

"This is the one military award that nobody wants," Rupp said. "You pay a price for it."

Even though many veterans weren't wounded in a combat zone, Rupp said, they still suffered.

"They didn't bleed, but they still experienced the mental anguish of war," he said. "We all carry the mental scars."

Purple Heart City signs will be displayed at the Medford airport and other locations throughout the city, Rupp said.

Rupp said he doesn't know how many veterans in this area received Purple Hearts. His organization has 51 members.

The Purple Heart decoration was initially created as the Badge of Military Merit by Gen. George Washington in 1782. The decoration was awarded to three Revolutionary War soldiers.

In 1931, the Purple Heart was revived on the 200th anniversary of Washington's birth. It was made retroactive to April 5, 1917, the day before the U.S. entered World War I.

Since 1917, 1.9 million Purple Hearts have been awarded.

Veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and the Cold War showed up at the council meeting.

Councilor Chris Corcoran told them his father suffered all his life from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of combat in Korea.

He said his father's life was saved when a ration can deflected a bullet that glanced off his hip bone rather than entering his body.

Corcoran said the Purple Heart City is the least the city can do to honor the veterans of past wars.

"This is very near and dear to my heart," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm