Fort Jennings Mayor Jim Smith, left, receives the award from Purple Heart Association members Bud Hanna, center, and Dave Bower, right, declaring the village of Fort Jennings a Purple Heart Village during the banquet held at the American Legion Post 715 on Tuesday afternoon. (Delphos Herald/Stephanie Groves)
Fort Jennings Mayor Jim Smith, left, receives the award from Purple Heart Association members Bud Hanna, center, and Dave Bower, right, declaring the village of Fort Jennings a Purple Heart Village during the banquet held at the American Legion Post 715 on Tuesday afternoon. (Delphos Herald/Stephanie Groves)

By Stephanie Groves

DHI Correspondent 

FORT JENNINGS-The village of Fort Jennings was honored by the Purple Heart Association as the first Purple Heart Village in America during a banquet held Wednesday at Fort Jennings Post 715.

Governor John Kasich proclaimed Ohio the first Purple Heart State on December 20th, 2012.

Fort Jennings Mayor Jim Smith, Jim Dickman and many members of the community have worked diligently to honor local Purple Heart recipients, as well as all veterans from all branches of the service from any conflict.

Smith spoke to the attendees and described the prestigious award as the oldest military decoration in the world in present use. It is awarded to veterans who have been wounded in combat from enemy contact. Smith said it was an honor for the village to be recognized by the Purple Heart Association members, which included; Bud Hanna, Ron Cross, Ed Dameron and Dave Bower.

"I proclaim August 7th, 2013 Purple Heart Day in Fort Jennings," Smith stated. "On August 17th, 2013 the village will accept the official declaration of the Purple Heart Village."

Smith also announced that the theme for FortFest is "Saluting Our Veterans".

"We will strive to have the same type of military awareness as we did last year," Smith explained.

During the meeting, Jim Dickman said that veterans organizations have seen that we need to honor our veterans. Everyone involved is trying to do their best to get behind projects like the renovation of the memorial in front of the Post.

"Delphos and Ottoville have donated generously to support this event," Dickman said.

Dickman commended the Fort Jennings graduates that are going into the service after high school. He also acknowledged Terry Kleman and his wife, who now have five sons in the military. In addition, he thanked the Purple Heart Association members for attending the meeting.

Dickman said that he and Bud began talking seriously about community involvement after bringing the Huey into town last year. With the proclamation, the village agrees to set one day aside to honor veterans.

"The celebration will be ongoing as Fort Jennings salutes and acknowledges veterans throughout the festivities during FortFest ," Dickman explained.

Deep personal motivation has driven Dickman to work very hard at making this happen for the village. He quoted President Calvin Coolidge.

"If we forget our veterans, then we forget our country," Dickman said.