Lynchburg becomes one of first Purple Heart cities in Virginia
LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) -- Lynchburg became an official Purple Heart City Tuesday night, joining only a handful of cities in Virginia to do so.
When Lynchburg City Council passed the motion unanimously, no one smiled more widely than local Purple Heart 1607 chapter commander Gary Witt.
"This is one of the only pictures I have of me back in Vietnam," says Witt from his Campbell County home, pointing to a picture of him in camouflage.
Witt served in the Vietnam war from 1968 to 1969, and he has the scars to prove it.
"I had a white phosphorous burn on the back of this leg and I had shrapnel," says Witt. "In fact I still have shrapnel in my leg today."
Witt was injured not once, but twice. The second time came from an RPG attack.
"There was a hole about that big in my hip and went all the way to the bone."
Those battle wounds brought him two Purple Hearts. He says becoming a part of that community has helped surround him with people who understand the memories of bloodshed he'd rather soon forget.
"It's bittersweet," says Witt. "I don't think anyone goes to war wanting to earn a Purple Heart."
He says it only make sense that Lynchburg, a city that has so much veteran pride, becomes the next Purple Heart City in the U.S.
Lynchburg City Council members sang their praises about the idea, and council member Jeff Helgeson even pointed out that he wore a purple shirt to the meeting just for the occasion.
Now that it's official, signs will soon be placed on all major incoming highways to Lynchburg. All expenses will be covered by the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Witt says he and his fellow veterans were thrilled when the motion passed, but their work isn't close to being done yet.
"We're hoping to get ALL of the surrounding counties to become Purple Heart regions," says Witt. "This is will help bring tourism here to Central Virginia, which is already somewhat of a veteran hub."
He adds that this is also just one more way to make up for the past when Vietnam veterans were shamed after the war ended.
"Unlike the Vietnam [days], we want them to feel proud of their uniform," says Witt. "We want them to be celebrated we want them to feel welcome."
The dedication will take place on Memorial Day at Monument Terrace. If you'd like to attend the ceremony or find out how to get involved with the Lynchburg chapter 1607 of Military Order of the Purple Heart, click here.