FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Putnam to Support Vets on TZB Name Change

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                            

MaryEllen Odell
Putnam County Executive
(845) 808-1001

July 18, 2013

Putnam to Support Vets on TZB Name Change  

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and members of New York’s Military Order of the Purple Heart are launching an initiative to rename the new Tappan Zee Bridge (TZB) to honor the state’s Purple Heart recipients.

The Purple Heart is awarded to those who have been wounded or killed while serving on active duty. It is the military’s oldest service award and was established by Continental Army Commander-in-Chief George Washington. The Purple Heart was originally known as the Badge of Military Merit. It was ordered by Washington from his Newburgh headquarters on August 7, 1782. Today, the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is located in New Windsor, New York.

“Renaming the bridge for our Purple Heart recipients is a wonderfully brilliant idea,” said Odell. “With the birthday of the Purple Heart on August 7, the timing of this couldn’t be better. We are very honored to be part of this movement as we are the first county in the State of New York to be designated a Purple Heart County.”

Odell proclaimed Putnam as New York’s first “Purple Heart County on March 18, 2013. The County’s Legislature made a similar proclamation on April 3. The designation was requested by members of the Westchester/Putnam Chapter of the MOPH and the Putnam County Joint Veterans Council.

Odell learned of the idea to change the TZB’s name in an e-mail blast sent out recently by William Nazario, Commander of the NY MOPH.

“We at the Military Order of the Purple Heart-Dept. of New York need your assistance in what we hope is the renaming of the new under construction Tappan Zee Bridge,” he wrote. “We think it would be an honor to rename the Tappan Zee Bridge ‘The Purple Heart Memorial Bridge’ in honor of those who have made sacrifices and ultimate sacrifices in defense of our nation.”

Nazario asked the recipients of his e-mail to write to the NYS Thruway Authority and to their elected officials requesting their support for the renaming of the bridge. Nazario proclaimed this effort “a Patriotic act.”

“In an age where stadiums and other public structures have corporate logos, let’s put a real hero’s logo on this bridge – the Purple Heart,” he wrote.

Other e-mail recipients responded to Nazario’s request. Howard Goldin, Commander of Chapter 21 of the MOPH, sent a letter to NYS Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas J. Madison, Jr. In his letter, Goldin noted that over two million men and women have been awarded the Purple Heart “showing we have bled for our country.”

Goldin recounted the history of watch fires along the Hudson River, primitive signals sent by colonial troops. He informed Madison that each year on Memorial Day, veterans light watch fires to keep vigil for “our fallen brothers, our lost patrol that has still not returned, and the patrols of past wars – back to our country’s first soldiers who fought along these very shores.”

The TZB spans the Hudson River from South Nyack in Rockland County to Tarrytown in Westchester County. On July 4, Westchester County, the City of Newburgh in Orange County and Rockland County were also proclaimed Purple Heart Counties.

Goldin requested Madison’s “consideration and assistance” in the renaming of one of the new spans of the bridge as The Purple Heart Memorial Bridge. He insisted it would only be fitting that New York honor its Purple Heart recipients: “ . . .those men and women who have proudly served and sacrificed so much.”

Madison’s response to Goldin’s July 8 letter was brief and included a handwritten note thanking Goldin for the suggestion and for his service to the country.

“At this point in the New NY Bridge project there has been no discussion regarding the possibility of changing the name of the Tappan Zee Bridge,” Madison wrote. “But if that opportunity does arise in the future we will certainly add your suggestion of “The Purple Heart Memorial Bridge” to the discussion.” 

Putnam County Director of Veterans Affairs Karl Rohde agreed with Odell that the timing of this request was particularly meaningful.

“It is always appropriate to honor veterans,” he said. “But it is especially poignant that at this time we wish to honor those veterans who have received the Purple Heart. Among those recipients are those service members who made the supreme sacrifice for our country and our freedom.”

Putnam County Historian Denis Castelli is a Purple Heart recipient. He offered a brief outline of Putnam’s history of respect for all of its veterans, including the Gold Star Mothers. 

“Putnam is already home to four Civil War Generals and the first Gold Star Mother statue in the nation,” he said. “It is the birthplace of John McCloy – one of only 19 men in American history to be awarded two Congressional Medals of Honor. It is the home of Albert Luke Ireland, who was awarded more Purple Heart medals than any other man in history – nine medals – five from WWII and four from the Korean War.”

“Reasons enough for Putnam to be at the leading edge of the campaign to designate the new Tappan Zee Bridge as The Purple Heart Memorial Bridge,” Castelli said.

In honor of the medal’s approaching birth date, the County recently posted striking new green, gold and blue signs with an image of the Purple Heart medal at entry points to Putnam welcoming visitors to “New York State’s FIRST Purple Heart County.”