Service-minded, patriotic citizens of Huntington, Indiana are coming together to raise money for the Purple Heart Corridor Archway Project.
The archway is the next step to create a welcoming space to honor veterans and their service.
Recognizing veterans is a big deal in this town.
The city’s Memorial Park is testament to that.
The centerpiece of the park features a T-33A Shooting Star Jet.
A Purple Heart Monument was added to the park in 2015.
It honors all Americans who earned the commendation by being wounded or killed in action.
The monument features a brick for each Huntington resident who made that sacrifice.
Five years ago, then Mayor Brooks Fetters and the Huntington Common Council passed a resolution to recognize Huntington as a Purple Heart City.
Now the effort has shifted to raising money to build a gateway arch over the city’s Purple Heart Corridor.
It runs along West Park Drive near the historic Forks of the Wabash Trailhead.
Gloria Holzinger is the chairperson for the project. ” I got to thinking, we have the corridor, but there is nothing there” she said. “Why not go with something to show people coming in and out of our town how important this is.”
Holzinger says fundraising came to a grinding halt once the Covid-19 pandemic hit earlier this year.
After hearing about the fundraising issues, current Mayor Richard Strick decided to literally step up his efforts.
Strick committed to take part in the Marine Corps Marathon Challenge to help raise money and awareness for the cause.
The event includes a 10K run(6 miles), a 26 mile marathon, and a 50K run(31 miles).
Strick needed to dig deep to complete all three legs of the challenge.
During the most difficult stretches he says his mind kept coming back to why he was doing it in the
“Raising awareness about the sacrifices that individuals and families have made in our community in service to the country is important.”
As a former pastor, Strick performed funeral services for service members and talked with family members about the cost and pain they’ve carried with them.
“For those that do come home those are sobering stories to listen to,” Strick said in a somber voice. “It’s important for us to remember the real cost and price of combat so that when we do go into combat, we do so only because we’ve exhausted every other option.”
Huntington City Councilman Seth Marshall, who was a Staff Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps says the goal of the Purple Heart Corridor Archway Project is to “make it the gold standard for honoring our nation’s Purple Heart recipients.”
Holzinger says the Archway will serve as a powerful reminder of the city’s pride for all veterans, not just Purple Heart recipients. “Just to let them know that we appreciate what they have done for us.”
Rick Stell is Senior Vice Commander of Huntington V.F.W. Post 2689. He’s taken an active role in fundraising for the project.
Stell comes from a long line of military veterans and takes great pride in the way Huntington recognizes those who have served. “I get goosebumps just coming out here and walking around.”
Mayor Strick gets a smile on his face when he looks down the road and envisions the finish line.
“When we see that corridor project finalized, I think it is going to be a tremendous sense of pride for us as a community that those of us who haven’t served recognize the cost that has been borne by those who have.”
Donations can be mailed to the Huntington County Community Foundation or you can give online at www.huntingtonccf.org/crowdfund/purpleheart.