FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Odell Participates in Purple Heart Tribute Ride


MaryEllen Odell
Putnam County Executive
(845) 808-1001

August 5, 2013

Odell Participates in Purple Heart Tribute Ride
Hall Redo to Give Equal Space to All Branches of Service 

Approximately 100 motorcyclists gathered in Newburgh at the Motorcyclepedia Museum for the start of the first annual Purple Heart Tribute Ride on Saturday, August 3, a fundraiser for the Enhancement & Expansion Campaign for the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor which is located in New Windsor, NY.

Participating in the ride was County Executive MaryEllen Odell, pictured above with (from left to right) Purple Heart Hall of Honor Executive Director Andy Komonchak, Sen. Bill Larkin (R-C, Cornwall-on-Hudson), Odell, and USMA Master Sgt Mary Kay Messenger. Komonchak presented the Senator with a “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle vest shortly before the start of the ride.

A lifelong admirer of those who have served their country and open supporter of the Hall of Fame, Odell sought and received a proclamation from the County Legislature on April 3 designating Putnam as New York’s first Purple Heart County.

“It is always a pleasure for me to be involved with the wonderful Purple Heart Hall of Fame advocates,” Odell said. “Honoring the recipients of this medal is their mission, something everyone who enjoys the freedoms of being an American should do.” 

Prior to their thunderous start, Komonchak addressed the motorcycle riding participants.

“Your ride will ensure that our Purple Heart Veterans’ stories will be preserved for posterity with the respect and reverence they deserve,” he said.

Komonchak later stated in an e-mail it occurred to him as he looked out at the riders that many of them had been soldiers who endured monsoon rains in Vietnam and horrible cold in Korea and severe winter conditions in WWII.

“A little rain wouldn’t stop them from riding for those they left behind,” he said.   

The motorcycle enthusiasts drove from the museum past the Hall of Fame and on to the FDR Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park. There a floral replica of the medal was placed at the Franklin D. Roosevelt monument to honor all those who were wounded or killed in action in World War II. It was President Roosevelt, who in 1942, made the medal available to all service branches.

The Purple Heart is the oldest military decoration in present use. It was initially created by Gen. George Washington in 1782 as the Badge of Military Merit. It is awarded to any member of the Unites States Armed Services wounded or killed in combat with a declared enemy of the United States.  It is known among living recipients as a medal respected by all, wanted by none.

By description, the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is the Congressionally designated resting place of the stories and records of the more than 1.8 million men and women who earned the Purple Heart while in the service of their country. This is in addition to the 55,621 service men and women who have earned the Purple Heart in the current War on Terror.

In his e-mail, Komonchak told of the unique impact the Hall of Fame has on the veterans who visit, some on a regular basis. 

“It’s not just a place for those who earned our nation’s oldest military award – it’s a home for all veterans in every branch of the military, their families and loved ones. It also serves as a living reminder of the costs of war to the citizens of this great country,” he said. “The Hall is a conduit to healing for those who have locked away their wartime memories. It’s a space where they can feel safe and secure whether that involves interacting with another veteran or as an individual with the Hall itself. We have individuals who visit frequently to just sit and surround themselves with the presence of their buddies who fell with them.”

Fundraising to redesign the Hall is a necessity due to a lack of equal service branch representation in the original plans. The Board of Directors has initiated a plan to rectify this shortcoming and need to raise funding for the project.

“Visitors to the Hall need visual representations to remind them of the sacrifices of all branches of service,” said Komonchak. “The Hall and these precious data will stand as a living monument to these courageous veterans and will educate and inspire Americans of all ages for generations to come.”

For more information on the Purple Heart Hall of Fame, visit,

Purple Heart Ride of Honor
PHOTO CAPTION: Left to right:  Purple Heart Executive Director Andy Komonchak, Senator Bill Larkin, Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, United States Military Academy Master Sgt. Mary Kay Messenger (off-duty). Photo by Denis Castelli.