Purple Heart Truck stops in Fairmont on cross-country trip
By EDDIE TRIZZINO, Times West Virginian of Fairmont
FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) — Though Justin Burdette lost both of his legs during his military service, he’ll soon be doing a lot more moving around.
A recipient of the Purple Heart, Burdette will also be receiving an accessible pickup truck through the military organization, in partnership with the Wounded Warrior Family Support group, which will first travel 7,800 miles around the country gathering donations and signatures from veterans and citizens alike.
“It’s just to raise awareness for combat-injured veterans across the country,” Burdette said, standing beside the purple pickup truck. “I have an adaptive vehicle but it’s getting way up there in miles, starting to become a lot of issues.
“It means a lot, me and my wife are really excited about it.”
Burdette, a native of Palm Bay, Florida, who now walks with prosthetic legs, attended a dedication ceremony recently at the Veterans Memorial at East Marion Park, with the Marion County Honor Guard and members of the Purple Heart Chapter 724 in Fairmont.
Burdette served in three combat deployments with the military in Afghanistan and in Iraq, receiving a Purple Heart in his third when he was hit by a 107 mm rocket and lost both his legs below the knees, according to a press release from the Purple Heart.
The truck is specifically designed to assist with disabilities, including Burdette’s, equipped with a driver’s seat which lowers from inside the truck to near the ground for simple access. Providing veterans with an opportunity for movement helps to improve their quality of life, according to a Purple Heart commander.
“Both seats go out, they come down, if you’re in a wheelchair you come up, slide in the chair, you’ve got the crane, you hook it up and it will lift up your wheelchair and help you in,” John Hawes, a commander of the Purple Heart Chapter 576 in Georgia, explained. “We’ve learned that if we get the veteran out of the house, they become more productive and have a better life.”
Ernie VanGilder, a Marion County Commissioner, also read a proclamation dedicating Marion County as a Purple Heart County.
“The Marion County Commission hereby declares Marion County as the ‘Purple Heart County,’ in the State of West Virginia,” VanGilder said, reading the proclamation.
After the speeches, the audience and the military veterans were invited outside for a demonstration of the truck, and to leave their signatures on the finish of the truck. According to Hawes, by the end of its journey, the truck would no longer appear purple, and instead be covered in signatures from the supporters of the Purple Heart.
“We started a week ago Monday up in Washington,” Hawes said. “We’ve been to Virginia, we’re going to two places in West Virginia; We’re going to New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, and we’ll end up this coming Saturday (June 30) in Georgia.
“You won’t even see any purple anymore, it’s all signed.”
Hawes said the organization has given out three other trucks in the past which went through an identical process, in each case putting the truck into the hands of other Purple Heart recipients.
Burdette will then travel to Spokane, Washington, to receive the keys for good at the Purple Heart national convention later on in July.
“It’s going to end up in Spokane, Washington, with the National Convention, so they’re going to present the keys to me and my family,” Burdette said. “I’m going to be flying out at the end of July, me and my family out there, and we’re actually going to drive the truck back from there cross-country. It’ll be a little bit of a road trip.”
Information from: Times West Virginian, http://www.timeswv.com