Theodore's World: General David Petraeus Honoring Purple Heart Veterans

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June 26, 2010

General David Petraeus Honoring Purple Heart Veterans


Gen. David Petraeus returned to his native Hudson Valley on Friday to honor roughly 130 veterans who were wounded in battles dating back to the 1940s.

His visit comes only days before congressional hearings at which Petraeus will be confirmed to lead an increasingly violent war in Afghanistan.

Petraeus, a son of Cornwall, delivered the keynote speech Thursday afternoon at a tribute to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New Windsor. About 1,200 people — and a cavalcade of national media — filled the ballroom at Anthony's Pier 9 catering hall for the tribute.

The most honored guests were the Purple Heart recipients spanning seven decades, all of them wounded in wartime. They were joined by Gold Star mothers and families who had lost relatives in battle. Petraeus assured all of the veterans and military families that their service and sacrifice was for a grateful nation.

"Thank you for what you did to earn the badge of honor that is sought by none but respected by all," he said. "The depth of our gratitude is inexpressible."

Veterans and friends of Petraeus returned the appreciation. They gave Petraeus his father's Bible, which had been kept at the Cornwall Presbyterian Church. And his classmates presented a stained glass window depicting the Purple Heart medal, which will hang in the museum in Petraeus' honor.

The ceremony also honored the four men known as the "Genesis Group," who steered the dream of having a Purple Heart museum in New Windsor. They included:

*Joseph R. Farina, a Newburgh native and World War II veteran who gained fame for bringing his love of bowling to the country of Australia

* Lt. Gen. James D. Hughes, a West Point alumnus and decorated fighter pilot who served as military assistant to President Richard Nixon. Hughes is a New Windsor resident

* State Sen. Bill Larkin, R-C-Cornwall-on-Hudson, who served in the U.S. Army for 23 years before starting his ongoing 30-year run as a state lawmaker

* Everett Smith, a veteran of the Army National Guard, who founded the Sentinel, a twice-weekly newspaper in Orange County, and became vice president of the Purple Heart Hall of Honor.

The crowd also lauded Daniel Sheehan, a 14-year-old from Texas. For his project to become an Eagle Scout, Sheehan tracked down 55 Purple Heart recipients who were not registered in the Hall of Honor. The teenager got the idea after his grandfather, Andy Komonchak of Bloomingburg, brought him to the hall in 2007.

"I was overwhelmed," Sheehan told the crowd. "It made me think that every Purple Heart recipient has a story to tell."

That includes veterans like Andy Barone of Monroe, whose knuckle was torn off by shrapnel in France during World War II. Or Jose Baez of the Bronx, who earned two Purple Hearts in Vietnam, including one for a bullet that ripped through his cheek while he was carrying a pregnant Vietnamese woman.

"To see a top general come out here — he knows what we went through," Baez said of Petraeus. "It means so much for him just to come and be with us."

And Petraeus, a 40-year military man, made it clear that he was honored, too. He shook hands with every Purple Heart recipient and Gold Star family in attendance, offering each an honorary medal. And on the eve of his next mission in Afghanistan, Petraeus spoke words that described himself as much as any other man or woman in the room.

" Today's troopers stand on the shoulders of those who came before them and because of your service, they stand very tall indeed," he said. . "Whatever the endeavor, whatever the mission, our troopers have always said, 'Send me.'"


Wild Thing's comment........

I have the utmost respect for General Petraeus and I can’t think of another person better equipped to honor those who have lost so much while giving their all to defend this nation.

Posted by Wild Thing at June 26, 2010 06:55 AM


General Petraeus speaks well. He is such a decent man. It must be very difficult for him to tolerate obama.

I also honor those that have earned the Purple Heart.

Posted by: TomR, armed in Texas at June 26, 2010 09:19 AM

God bless all our decorated American military heros and the commanders that lead them on behalf of a grateful nation.

The real story though here is the young 14 year old Eagle Scout, Daniel Sheehan of Texas, who in his own personal calling, far beyond the normal call of duty as a Boy Scout, sought out a project to not only earn his Eagle Badge, but bring to light worthy and belated recognition and honor to these 55 Purple Heart recipients.

What an exemplary young man we have in Daniel Sheehan -an inspiration to of all of us, young and old alike, of the good future we have as Americans.

Felicitations for what must have been a wonderful gathering of Americans.

Good post. Thank you for bringing this to us. Splendid.

Posted by: Carlos at June 26, 2010 03:11 PM

Tom and Carlos, thank you so much.

Posted by: Wild Thing at June 26, 2010 11:39 PM