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Dunedin Purple Heart Day ceremony honors veterans

DUNEDIN

Bob Crawford was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army when he was wounded toward the end of World War II in 1945.

A German shell hit a tree and a tree limb lifted him up and dropped him on the corrugated roof of his division staff cabin in the Hurtgen Forest along the border of Germany and Belgium.

"They couldn't get me out of my sleeping bag," the Dunedin resident recalled. "They had to peel me out."

Crawford spent nearly two years in military hospitals recovering from his injuries and received the Purple Heart while in a hospital in Atlantic City in 1945.

On Friday morning, about 100 people gathered at Purple Heart Park to pay tribute to Crawford and other local men and women who have been wounded or killed while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Eggers read a proclamation from the city declaring Friday as Purple Heart Day. He choked up as he gave tribute to those who were wounded in service to America.

"We are a very proud city of the extraordinary men and women who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country," Eggers said.

Eggers acknowledged that Veterans Day and Memorial Day are national holidays to honor people who have served in the military, but he said Purple Heart Day is also special.

"I like to think of this day as a second chance to say thank you to those who were willing to fight for what we have and what we get to celebrate every day," he said.

A bell was rung one time for each local Purple Heart recipient and a color guard provided a rifle salute and played taps in honor of the veterans in attendance and those who lost their lives in battle. A lone bagpiper played Amazing Grace.

Crawford turns 97 on Aug. 15 and was proud to be at Friday's event.

"I'm here to pay service to the Purple Heart," he said. "I'm also here for the two people who cared enough to buy a brick in my honor."

A memorial to combat wounded veterans has been established at the park, as well as a brick courtyard. Bricks are available for purchase to honor those injured or killed in military service.

Dunedin is the country's first Purple Heart city, according to event organizers. The ceremony was the second in what city officials and event organizers, which included local VFWs, American Legion Posts and the Military Order of the Purple Heart, hope will become an annual event. The park was dedicated on Purple Heart Day last year.

Although many of the participants were veterans themselves, some were there to honor loved ones.

Scott Daniels, 59, of Clearwater purchased a memorial brick at the park in honor of his father, Bob Daniels, who was wounded in the Pacific in World War II and died five years ago at age 81. He brought his father's Purple Heart award to the ceremony.

"I couldn't think of a better way to honor my father," Daniels said. "This is a memorial service for everyone."

Dunedin Purple Heart Day ceremony honors veterans 08/07/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 7, 2009 8:06pm]
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