By Sydney Jones
For the Purple Heart veterans of Lynchburg, their service never fully stops when they retire, but transitions into volunteer work serving their fellow veterans and community members.
“As a Vietnam veteran, we were treated terribly,” said Gary Witt, who is the Commander of the Lynchburg chapter of The Military Order of the Purple Heart. “We’re now trying to make ourselves recognized and be involved in our local community so that doesn’t happen again.”
There are many different outreach opportunities that the veterans are involved in, like benefit luncheons, fundraising and automobile donations to disabled or veterans in need. They are also partnering with the Desmond Doss Memorial Run in October to raise awareness for local veterans.
Since the city of Lynchburg joined the Purple Heart community in April 2016, the city’s leaders have been dedicated to raising awareness for veterans and Purple Heart recipients and have set up Purple Heart parking signs at locations all over the city.
“When Lynchburg became a purple heart city, they challenged all of the surrounding communities to become purple heart communities. This eventually turned into the purple heart trail,” said Witt.
According to the Purple Heart website, The Purple Heart Trail was created in 1992 and honors all the men and women who have received the Purple Heart medal and is marked by signs along various highways.
“Some of the things we’ve done to gain recognition has brought the Lynchburg community together; we want to make sure veterans and others who live in Lynchburg know we’re here if they need us,” Witt said.
They have also been increasing outreach to universities which led them to set up a booth at Get Downtown, an event the city of Lynchburg hosts in order to connect college students with local culture.
“We are trying to reach the students coming here, it’s hard to get young people involved because they don’t realize the impact of the military.” said Witt about the importance of reaching out to a younger generation. “I remember when I came back, I wanted nothing to do with veterans. But spreading awareness with different events is important to create a relationship with young people.”
This summer Liberty University was the first college campus in the state of Virginia to become a Purple Heart campus. There is now a reserved parking spot for veterans at DeMoss hall and on November 11, Liberty will host the Lynchburg Veterans Parade.
Veterans are some of the most important members of a community, and it is extremely important for younger people to connect and serve with them in order to create a stronger bond between generations.