GARBER, Okla. — The town of Garber now bears the honor of being a "Purple Heart City."
The title was conferred on the town by the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Wounded Veterans of Oklahoma in a ceremony Friday afternoon at Garber Public Schools, at the community World War II monument.
Veterans, students, civic leaders and community members gathered for the ceremony, which included presentation of a plaque and signs to mark the distinction for residents and guests.
J.D. Dennis, board president of Wounded Veterans of Oklahoma, said the honor stemmed from a conversation with James Battles, Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 820 commander, about how to recognize the town for its longstanding support of veterans.
"It's important," Dennis said, "not only for our combat-wounded veterans, but for our communities, that we remember and recognize our veterans."
Dennis, a native of Garber and now a resident of Enid, worked with Battles to include Garber in the Military Order of the Purple Heart program, which also has recognized Stillwater and Oklahoma State University.
Battles said he was honored to come to Garber Friday to recognize the town, and said the "Purple Heart City" title should be prominently displayed, "so when people come into town, they will see this town supports veterans."
A retired Army sergeant first class, Battles was wounded by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan and spent two years recovering in a hospital. Others, he said, weren't as lucky, and he works with the Military Order of the Purple Heart and communities across the state to honor their sacrifice.
"I've seen a lot of our troops die in Afghanistan," Battles said, "and this is my way of honoring them and helping veterans here in Oklahoma."
Standing in front of a World War II memorial bearing the names of 15 Garber natives who made the ultimate sacrifice, Battles said it's important to support communities that support veterans and remember the fallen.
"The reason we do the towns like this, is it helps remind people of the sacrifices we've made, and that some gave all," he said, "and it means a lot to us that the citizens here support us — that they support veterans."
Garber Mayor Warren Dell said, when the idea for the "Purple Heart City" designation was presented to the town's commissioners, the support was unanimous.
"Anything we can do to honor veterans, we need to do that," Dell said. "We have a lot of veterans in this town. We have wounded veterans. And, I think a lot of times they get forgotten about, and this is a way to honor those guys and gals."
Dell said signs designating Garber a "Purple Heart City" will be placed north and south of town on Oklahoma 74.
For more information on how to get a community designated a "Purple Heart City," email Battles at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 820 on Facebook, or request information through any chapter of the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars.