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Dunedin dedicates Purple Heart Park

Dunedin will officially unveil this Purple Heart monument in a ceremony today.

Special to the Times

Dunedin will officially unveil this Purple Heart monument in a ceremony today.

DUNEDIN — Vietnam veteran Danny Sowder has two Purple Hearts.

One for the wounds he suffered in 1968 after a buried explosive device blew him 30 feet into the air, the other for shrapnel wounds he received while under attack in 1969.

The lavender medals remind the 64-year-old Dunedin resident of the sacrifices he and other war veterans have made.

Now, a park will, too.

A special ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. today, National Purple Heart Day, in which Sowder, commander of the JFK Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Dunedin, will help dedicate a small park in the heart of downtown.

The site, at the northeast corner of Main Street and Broadway, will be known as Purple Heart Park.

"It's a great location, easy to find, and a suitable size for what we are trying to accomplish," Sowder said. "Hopefully, it will promote business and tourism for the city. There are a lot of Purple Heart veterans out there."

The medal is given to any member of the Armed Forces who has been wounded or killed in action.

Purple Heart Park has been a labor of love for Sowder, a former letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service who retired after suffering a stroke on Christmas Eve 2006. He brought together a variety of veterans groups who, with the help of city staff members, have managed to raise more than $11,000 for a monument, commemorative bricks and improvements to the park.

As part of today's ceremony, a new monument will be unveiled.

His efforts also led to Dunedin's distinction of becoming the first Purple Heart City, a designation bestowed in 2006 by the national Military Order of the Purple Heart.

"My hope is to get at least one Purple Heart City in every state," Sowder said.

Sowder first approached City Commissioner Dave Eggers two years ago with his ideas to make Dunedin the first Purple Heart City. Enthused, Eggers helped him bring the proposal before the City Commission, which embraced the idea along with a future monument.

A Purple Heart Task Force suggested the piece of land, donated recently to the city by businessman Joe Kokolakis, as the ideal setting for the memorial and park.

Eggers and others agreed.

"It's a wonderful and proper way to show respect," Eggers said. "We felt like it was our way of saying thank you to those who got in harm's way and were injured in a small, large or final way."

Reach Terri Bryce Reeves at treeves@tampabay.rr.com.

>>Fast facts

Dedication of Dunedin's Purple Heart Park

When: 10 a.m. today.

Where: The park is at Main Street and Broadway in downtown Dunedin.

The memorial: Commemorative bricks can be purchased and engraved in memory or in honor of Purple Heart recipients. Cost is $100.

Details: Call (727) 298-3010 or visit www.dunedingov.com

Dunedin dedicates Purple Heart Park 08/06/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 6, 2008 8:51pm]
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