Dozens gathered at the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor to watch retired U.S. Army Sergeant Justin Burdette become the next Purple Heart recipient to receive the special 2018 Purple Heart truck.
The converted Ford F-150 was specially made for amputee veterans to drive and has been traveling across the country since last Sunday. Follownig the almost 8.000-mile run, Burdette, a Florida native, will keep the truck.
Burdette served three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and received the Purple Heart medal after losing both legs below the knees while in combat. He was picked from a nationwide search of eligible nominees to ride the truck.
“It means a lot [to be here],” Burdette said. “I really enjoy getting out and raising awareness for what other service members are going through.”
John Bircher, national director of public relations for the Military Order of the Purple Heart organization, touched on the significance of the truck for injured military veterans.
“We want to show that mobility is freedom,” Bircher said. “One of the hardest things for [injured veterans] to do is to get up and get out of the house. That’s what this truck is all about; it has been modified so it can be driven by an injured or amputee veteran, and as the driver who first drove it told me, ‘it makes me feel like a man again.’”
Sen. Larkin signs the truck
MOPH National Commander Neil Van Ess presented retiring State Senator Bill Larkin (R, Cornwall-on-Hudson) the George Washington Medallion of Merit for his record of service during World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and his continued commitment to making sure veterans are honored for their service. To this end, he played a major role in the campaign to establish the National Purple Heart of Honor in New Windsor.
“I know what a leader is, and Senator Larkin has done a lot of wonderful things that people in this Valley know,” Van Ess said. “When you spearheaded this hall of honor, you gave the ultimate acknowledgement of bringing us all home. You preserve our legacy for all time.”
Larkin, who also got to sign the truck, was humbled by the honor.
“What I received was an award that you don’t receive every day,” Larkin said. “In all my endeavors, I wasn’t looking to receive awards, I was looking to serve my people.”
The Purple Heart Truck Run has been touring across the country for three years. This year, it plans to cross nearly 8,000 miles and will stop at Spokane, Washington, where the MOPH National Convention will take place.