The first Purple Heart Medal, originally referred to as the Badge of Military Merit, was issued during the Revolutionary War by George Washington.
Since that time, it has been given to thousands of military servicemen wounded in action.
The Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) is an organization put in place to promote camaraderie and patriotism among its members, support important legislative initiatives and to provide assistance to veterans of war and their families.
As the organization celebrates its 75th anniversary, however, membership is nearing an all-time low.
Made up mostly of veterans of Korea, Vietnam and World War II, the ranks of the MOPH are being depleted as members pass away.
In an effort to continue the organization, members are searching for Afghanistan and Iraqi veterans.
"It’s a sad state of affairs," said Dennis Tom, chief financial officer for MOPH Chapter 500 on the Westside. "We need new blood."
According to Tom, the chapter boasts 98 members, but one can only expect to see five to 10 people at each meeting.
"Membership is a good thing because of the camaraderie. It’s easier to share experiences because you know they went through the same things," he added.
Aside from their monthly meetings, MOPH is active in the community. They hold fundraisers to help those in need, and they attend funerals of veterans. Members also travel to area schools and talk to children about their experiences.
They also ensure their members get all of the medical attention they might need for both physical and mental ailments, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
"These guys that are just coming back, they might seem like they’re fine, but they might not be," said Tom.
Chapter 500 meets on the second Tuesday of each month at Hometown Buffet, 3670 Soldono Blvd., in West Broad Plaza.
"There’s no alcohol or anything like that," said Tom. "It’s a chance to get together and talk. There’s things I went through that I wouldn’t talk about with anyone else."
Though the group meets during the day, they would consider moving meetings to the evenings or adding a second, evening meeting each month to help accommodate younger members who may have to work during daytime hours, according to Tom.
In an effort to help bolster membership, the MOPH is holding a 75th Anniversary Life Membership Promotion.
Between now and June 30, 2008, the cost of a lifetime membership for a Purple Heart recipient has been lowered to $50. As an extra incentive, the MOPH Department of Ohio has offered to pay the $50 during that time frame. This means that for the next six months, there is no cost to enroll.
To qualify, you must have been awarded the Purple Heart Medal by the U.S. Government. Proof of the award must be submitted along with the application.
For more information about the MOPH or to apply for membership, contact Dennis Tom at 272-2562 or log on to www.purpleheart.org.