FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Odell: Putnam First in NY to be Designated Purple Heart County


MaryEllen Odell
Putnam County Executive
(845) 808-1001 

April 5, 2013

Odell: Putnam First in NY to be Designated Purple Heart County

It was standing room only at the April 3 meeting of the Putnam County Legislature as veterans and the public gathered to witness the moment when County Executive MaryEllen Odell proclaimed Putnam as the state’s first Purple Heart County:

“Whereas, the Purple Heart is the oldest military decoration in use today and was created as the Badge of Military Merit by Gen. George Washington in 1782; and Whereas, the Purple Heart is awarded to any member of the United States Armed Forces who was wounded or killed in combat with a declared enemy of the United States of America; and Whereas, the mission of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, chartered by an Act of Congress, is to foster an environment of goodwill among combat-wounded veterans and their families, promote patriotism, support legislative initiatives and most importantly, make sure we never forget; and Whereas Putnam County, while small in size, has from its very origins in 1812, provided military leaders of national and historical significance. Named for Gen. Israel Putnam, an American Revolutionary War hero, Putnam County had four fighting Generals in the Civil War including Gen. Daniel A. Butterfield who is credited with composing “Taps,” and five Congressional Medal of Honor recipients: Abraham K. Arnold, Samuel N. Benjamin, William J. Brewer, Daniel A. Butterfield and John McCloy; and Whereas, Cold Spring resident Albert Luke Ireland, a U. S. Marine Corps sergeant and the recipient of nine Purple Heart medals for his service during World War II and the Korean War, was honored on August 20, 2002 when a portion of NY Route 301 was designated the Sergeant Albert Ireland Memorial Highway; and Whereas Putnam County greatly appreciates and recognizes the commitment and sacrifices made by our military service members and their families including our Gold Star and Blue Star Mothers and pledges to continue to honor and support their contributions. Now, therefore, be it proclaimed that Putnam County be forever known as New York State’s first Purple Heart County.”

Vietnam veteran and Silver Star recipient Karl Rohde, Putnam’s director of Veterans Affairs, led the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. Opening remarks were made by Putnam County Historian and Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 21 Judge Advocate Denis Castelli who called the Purple Heart an award wanted by none, respected by all.

“Our local veterans are incredibly proud of Putnam County’s government and its citizens because the government and citizens are so proud of our veterans,” said Castelli. “We show it all the time. There are veteran organizations in every town in Putnam, parades and celebrations on Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Veterans Day and 9/11. And we have the finest Veterans Park I have ever seen anywhere outside of Washington, DC.”

Following Castelli’s remarks, Odell read the Proclamation.

Castelli worked behind the scenes in obtaining the necessary permission and confirmation from the State and National Commanders of the MOPH. Once that was accomplished, Castelli notified Odell and Chairman Richard T. Othmer, Jr. who moved swiftly to garner the affirmative votes needed from the other members of the Putnam County Legislature.   

Approximately 1.7 million Purple Heart medals have been awarded since 1917 when use of the award was renewed. However, only 186,000 individuals are presently registered in the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor which is located in New Windsor, NY. 

“We need to fix that,” said Castelli.

Following Odell’s reading of the proclamation, MOPH Sergeant-at-Arms Rich Gerbeth presented a U.S. flag to the Putnam County Veterans Museum. The flag was flown in Iraq on Sept. 11, 2004.

As the meeting was drawing to a close, Mary Anne Curtin, mother of Putnam Lake resident and Marine Corps veteran LCpl. John G. Curtin arrived bearing an enlarged photograph of her wounded son. The photo was taken while Curtin was a patient at Walter Reed Armey Medical Center where he was presented with a Purple Heart by President Barack Obama. When asked how her son was doing, she replied, “He’s doing okay.”

Then 21-year old Curtin was wounded in Afghanistan on Feb. 15, 2011 when an improvised explosive device exploded and he lost both legs above the knees. Various VFW Posts and other organizations throughout the area have held fundraisers for the wounded Marine.


County Executive MaryEllen Odell addresses audience after reading Proclamation officially declaring Putnam New York State’s first Purple Heart County.


Purple Heart Patriots hold the Proclamation designating Putnam as New York’s first Purple Heart County. Top row (L-R): Denis Castelli, Eugene Lang, Dale Novak, John Ascanti. Middle row (L-R): Eugene Parrotta, William ‘Willy’ Nazario, John Fratangelo. Bottom row (L-R): Richard Gerbeth, John Roberts.


MOPH Sergeant-at- Arms Rich Gerbeth presents US flag flown in Iraq on 9-11-04 to the Putnam County Veterans Museum.


MOPH Chapter 21 Judge Advocate Denis Castelli who was responsible for initiating the effort for designating Putnam as the first Purple Heart County in New York State.


Vice Commander and MOPH Patriot of the Year William ‘Willy’ Nazario presents a MOPH Special Recognition award to Putnam County.


Purple Heart Patriots gather around former Marine Corps LCpl John Curtin’s mother, Mary Anne. John Curtin was wounded in Afghanistan on Feb. 15, 2011 and presented the Purple Heart by President Barack Obama on Feb. 23.


MOPH Special Recognition Award