Led by George Washington in October, 1782, American soldiers descended upon New Windsor to set up camp for what would be the final winter of the Revolutionary War. Yesterday, the Utica Comets staff descended upon that very same land to visit the Purple Heart Hall of Honor.
Honoring the distinction of being the first hockey team to be a Purple Heart Recognized organization, the Comets’ front office used the day to pay their respects to the men and women who were injured or killed in combat and earned Purple Heart awards for their service and sacrifice.
Learning about the history of the award and the grounds on which they stood was powerful for many members of the staff, including president Robert Esche, the grandson of a Purple Heart recipient from WWII.
“Becoming a Purple Heart organization was very special to all of us as a staff and we saw what it meant to the Purple Heart recipients when they came to our building as well,” Esche said. “It’s a good time to remember that we’re so lucky to work in sports and entertainment, and those luxuries are provided because of the sacrifices these men and women have made.”
During the visit, the staff was able to take the time to interact with relics from the branches of the armed forces and to learn about the history of the Purple Heart award. Many members of the staff have family and friends who have earned a Purple Heart, and they were granted the opportunity to read more about their service through the Hall of Honor’s database.
And while there have been over 1 million recipients of the medal, only about 10% have been officially documented in the Hall of Honor. One of the top goals of the staff at the museum is to encourage people to check their database and see if a recipient is missing. And if they are, the registration process is quite simple.
However, even at 10%, or slightly over 100,000 names, their database has become the closest thing to an “official” database of recipients that exists because of their efforts to acquire information.
“You can download the form or we can mail you one to understand what type of information we’re collecting and how we might share these stories,” Anita Padila, director of the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor said. “It’s an opportunity to preserve and honor those individuals who have earned a Purple Heart.”
At the end of the tour, Esche and the Comets presented an official Purple Heart jersey to the Hall of Honor, and the Save of the Day Foundation made a monetary donation in an effort to help advance the efforts of the museum.
“We don’t feel like we can ever do enough for the military,” Esche said. “Military service has been engrained in our region, and it’s important to pay tribute to that. “If you’re going down to New York City, you should pull off and see the Hall of Honor. It’s right off the Thruway, and even an hour here can be so impactful. Learning about why we’re provided our freedoms really hits home and gives you overwhelming emotion.”
The day of reflection was one that is sure to have a lasting impact on the members of the staff of both the Comets and the Hall of Honor.
“We were ecstatic that the Utica Comets staff took the time to come down here and have the experience,” Padila. “We know, given your history, and all your dedication to Purple Heart recipients, that it’s something you have a vested interest in. We’re excited to know that you have that value.”
If you or someone you know is a recipient of a Purple Heart and would like to register at the Hall of Honor, you can do so at: https://www.thepurpleheart.com/enrollment/.
The entire list of registered Purple Heart Recipients can be found at: https://www.thepurpleheart.com/roll-of-honor/.