07purpleheartIf you live in Fayetteville, chances are you know a soldier. With over 50,000 active-duty personnel, Fort Bragg is the largest military base in the world by population. “Camp Bragg,” as it was called from 1918-1922, has been training heroes for more than 100 years, and it shows. The community in and around the Fayetteville/Fort Bragg region is always ready to give honor where honor is due.

Rolling Thunder is a national veterans organization designed to bring full accountability for prisoners of war and those missing in action of all U.S. wars. Craig Hardy is a veteran and chairman/ past president of Rolling Thunder NC Chapter 1. “The mission of Rolling Thunder is to educate the public that there are still missing Americans from all wars, and we try to ensure that our government does not forget that,” Hardy said.

“We do more to bring them home,” he added. “Our second mission is to help and assist veterans and their families in the area.”

Hardy invites the community to assist veterans alongside him. “Fayetteville unfortunately has a large number of homeless veterans. There’s more that the community could probably do to help (them) and other veterans in our communities, but there’s a lot of organizations that are doing just that,” said Hardy.

Serving U.S. veterans has long been a recognized need in this country. In 1782, George Washington created the Purple Heart, originally called the Badge for Military Merit, to honor those who have been wounded or killed in combat. It is the oldest American military decoration for military merit.

Locally, the Sandhills Purple Heart Committee invites the public to join them in thanking Purple Heart recipients, families of deceased Purple Heart recipients, families of those killed in action and Gold Star mothers at the Sandhills Purple Heart Dinner.

The Sandhills Purple Heart Dinner is one of the largest functions that Rolling Thunder sponsors— and one of the biggest ways they honor those who have sacrificed for our country. “Those who have (made it home) still need to be thanked for their service, and Rolling Thunder tries to do that with their events,” said Hardy, who is also this year’s Purple Heart Committee director.

Recipients will be escorted by Junior ROTC cadets and announced during the Walk of Honor, in which each recipient walks through a saber salute. Their name, branch, location of service, and the location that they received their Purple Heart is announced.

“It’s recognizing and acknowledging and honoring them for their service and sacrifice,” said Hardy.

The event takes place Saturday, Aug. 24, from 5-8 p.m. at the Crown Coliseum, 1960 Coliseum Dr. It is open to the public. Tickets cost $25. Purple Heart recipients receive a free meal and additional tickets for up to two guests. To register and purchase tickets, visit www.sandhillsphdinner.com.

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