Jenks becomes a Purple Heart City
As you drive into town on Main Street, a new sign can be seen that welcomes a small faction of former military members.
The sign reads “Purple Heart City,” and bears the crest of the honor. Signs like the one installed last week can be found in many cities around the nation and Jenks is one of the newest.
“It’s nothing more than an official recognition of the fact that a city may or may not have recipients of a Purple Heart,” city council member Cory Box said.
Box has led the charge for Jenks to become a Purple Heart city in the months since discovering the gesture.
Box says he was driving through Perry when a Purple Heart sign caught his interest. Two day’s later, driving through Broken Arrow, he saw it again.
A call to a friend who serves on the Broken Arrow city council put him in touch with Mitch Reed, the leader of the local Purple Heart community, who further explained the process.
At the time of attempting to make Jenks a Purple Heart city, Box knew of just one resident who was a recipient. The resident has since moved to Sapulpa but that doesn’t change the way Box thinks about the gesture.
“He was one,” Box said. “And one was enough. I wasn’t waiting for 10, I wasn’t looking for a magic number. One was enough. I found one guy and that was all we needed to do.”
The process was simple and took little time, one of the main reasons Box was adamant about it.
“The way I look at it is, there are a lot of things we do as a city that costs a lot of money and this is one thing we could do that costs very little money,” Box said. “It’s nothing more than saying, as a city these things are important to us and these people are important to us and we want to go ahead and publicly honor them the best we can.”
Once Jenks was approved, the city planned to host a ceremony recognizing Purple Heart recipients. However, the departure of the one recipient Box knew of left no one to recognize. Though he searched for more, none were to be found.
Box decided not to hold the ceremony, but he says he would if more recipients were to come forward.
“I’m just one person. If I had to guess, there probably are some in this town and around here. Me posting on Facebook and asking the question when I only have a couple hundred people who follow that page, when I get no response, that doesn’t provide evidence that those people aren’t out there,” Box said.
As to why no one has come forward, Box says he has an idea.
“One thing I’ve learned from talking to a lot of these local leaders involved in purple heart chapters is that a lot of these men and women don’t want to be identified,” he said. “Maybe some of them aren’t well, maybe they’re completely disabled and they don’t want to be seen.”
For Box, a military veteran who served for 25 years, the passion for making this gesture runs a little deeper.
“Some might argue it’s survivor’s guilt,” Box said. “There are a lot of people I know that have been very close to combat or in it or next to it and have seen people they know either die on the battlefield or die as a result or become mentally unstable later in life, whether it’s through mental or physical trauma. This is nothing more than a simple thing we can do to show some kind of visible recognition of those folks that might live among us that received the award.”
Though Box was unable to honor Purple Heart recipients with a ceremony, he believes making Jenks a Purple Heart city is still important. Moving forward he hopes he can help shine a light on some of the community’s brightest.
“When they see those signs they have to assume the city cares about them in some respect and when they do they can reach out to the city, even after I’m long gone, even if I don’t win another election I’ll still be happy to be there and be an MC of any ceremony no matter when or where it is if these people want to come forward,” he said.
About the Purple Heart Medal
Purpleheart.org gives a brief overview statement on the medal:
“The Purple Heart Medal is awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.”
The award was created by General George Washington in 1782, however, it did not stick around. It wasn’t until General Douglas MacArthur brought the medal back in 1932, the 200-year anniversary of Washington’s birth, did it come into modern use.