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National Purple Heart Hall of Honor Celebrates 10th Birthday

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The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, sharing stories of military servicemen and women killed or injured in conflicts dating back to the Revolutionary War.  

The state-run museum is a treasure trove of military history, offering film, photographs, interactive displays, exhibits, and a wealth of war memorabilia. The Roll of Honor database digitally archives information on thousands of Purple Heart recipients.

Visitors get to take an up-close look at what it was like to serve in a time of war. “We didn’t know we were marching along the front line,” said WWII veteran Herbert Adams, in a short film presented in the museum theater.

Adams recalled when a fellow soldier lit a cigarette while his company marched through the Belgium forest near the end of the war. The gesture alerted the Germans to their presence. “Next thing I knew, mortars and artillery were dropping all around us,” he said. Adams almost lost a leg in the attack.

A life-size sculpture in the main exhibition gallery at the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor.

“He was taken to a hospital with frostbite,” said Hall of Honor Program Director Peter Bedrossian, telling the story of U.S. Navy Third Class hospital corpsman Edward Toppel, who served in the Korean War. “The doctor said, ‘You’ve been shot.’ There was a hole in him, but it was so cold, he didn’t feel it.”

The museum provides 7,500 square feet of gallery space, showcasing war stories in an audio-visual format that captures the harsh reality of combat in breathtaking detail.

Stunning photographs in the museum’s Timeline Corridor record sacrifice in black and white: the attack on Carrier USS Franklin off the Japanese coast in 1945; a young nurse tending the wounds of a soldier in Vietnam in 1971; and two soldiers helping a wounded comrade in Helmand Province, during the war in Afghanistan.

On display are a collection of military medals – including the New York State Medal and the WWI Victory Medal – both successors to the Badge of Military Merit. Established in 1782 by George Washington, then commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, the medal was first bestowed on soldiers following the Revolutionary War. 

A collection of service medals at the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor.

The badge fell into disuse. Then, in 1932, an order signed by General Douglas MacArthur revived the medal as the Purple Heart. On display throughout the museum, the medal features a profile of Washington against a rich, purple background.

Located next to the New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site, the last encampment of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, the facility also offers outdoor, ceremonial grounds as space for contemplation and events. There is no admission fee. Parties of 10 or more adults pay $3 per person.  

For hours and information about the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, visit Thepurpleheart.com or call 845-561-1765.

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