Putnam County Executive
August 13, 2013
Odell, Vets Attend First Purple Heart Parade
MOPH Commander Speaks of New Mission
Peekskill’s North Division Street was lined with onlookers during the first annual Military Order of the Purple Heart Parade which was held on Saturday, August 10, 2013. The parade was organized by the City of Peekskill, American Legion Hawthorne Post 112, and members of NYS Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) Chapter 21.
Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and MOPH Chapter 21 Commander Neil Gross were among the dignitaries invited to attend the event. Odell presented Grand Marshal Sgt. Gary Beikirch with a proclamation thanking him for his service to his country and his fellow man.
“Participating in this event meant a lot to me,” said Odell. “Every one of the Purple Heart recipients is a true hero. It was an honor for me to meet Sgt. Beikirch and to present to him a proclamation on behalf of the people of Putnam County.”
In her proclamation, Odell recounted Beikirch’s “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” while serving as a U. S. Army Special Forces medic. It was at Camp Dak Seang in the Republic of Vietnam on April 1, 1970 that Beikirch risked his life several times to save his wounded comrades and was wounded himself. A three-time Purple Heart recipient, Beikirch also received a Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award.
For Gross, also Vietnam Veteran, attending the parade was akin to a long overdue homecoming.
“Forty years ago we were not welcomed home,” Gross said. “We were shunned and spit upon as our country and our fellow countrymen turned their backs on us.”
For today’s military veterans, it’s a different story and Gross and his fellow veterans are determined to bring a happier ending to the newest generation of veterans returning from war.
“Today, we feel welcomed and part of our country. We also feel we have a new mission. That mission is to insure that all our young men and women in uniform all around the world are cared for and protected.”
Gross said today’s veterans, many of whom are afflicted by combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), suffer greatly.
“They suffer from homelessness, unemployment, drug abuse, alcoholism, spousal abuse, child abuse – all stemming from combat-related PTSD and multiple tours of duty that tear their homes and lives apart,” Gross said.
Various veteran organizations have begun to focus on the plight of today’s veterans. They include the American Legion, the DAV, the Vietnam Veterans of America, the MOPH and others.
“They are all dedicated to insuring that we never forget the sacrifices our men and women are making everyday. We must help America remember always that freedom is not free. That is the message we must convey to our children and our children’s children,” Gross said.
PHOTO CAPTION: Dignitaries gathered to greet Purple Heart Parade Grand Marshal Sgt. Gary Beikirch at Saturday’s event. From L to R are: Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, Beikirch, MOPH Chapter 21 Commander Neil Gross, veteran Al Kotash, and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.