According to the United Service Organizations, the Purple Heart is the oldest military award still presented to American service members and is given to those who’ve been wounded or killed as a result of enemy action.
One Bottineau woman is looking to find North Dakotans who’ve received the prestigious award in hopes of preserving their names.
Lois Schaefer has a long family history behind the military.
“My dad was in World War II in the Pacific as a Marine and his dad was in World War I,” Schaefer said.
Although she didn’t serve, her appreciation still runs deep.
“My mother was very proud of the military tradition and my dad’s service record so she always promoted patriotism in our family,” she said.
That same patriotism stayed in Schaefer as she got older.
“As the Americanism Chairman for our local auxiliary, I try to go to the schools and that’s one of the things I do is we give them certificates for learning the pledge,” Schaefer said.
But recently, her ideas have stretched far beyond the school walls.
“Well, I started maybe a couple of months ago and I was trying to get a comprehensive list of names of Purple Heart recipients for the state of North Dakota,” she said.
She says the plan is to send that list to the National Purple Heart Wall of Honor in New York for representation and preservation.
So far only 525 North Dakotans are accounted for — and the hunt for more continues.
“I submitted 23 enrollments last week. For the ones that were buried overseas, I have like another 75 names that I’ve found verification for, so I just need to fill out the enrollment forms and send that in,” Schaefer said.
Doing this hasn’t been easy, but her help has come from receiving names from people around the state.
Those who work alongside veterans and active military personnel are happy with what Schaefer is doing.
“The recipients are all around us. Your neighbor, somebody in the newsroom may be a purple heart recipient and you don’t even know about that — and it’s really important for us to say thank you,” National Purple Heart Wall of Honor Program Director, Peter Bedrossian said.
Schaefer says she could be working on this project for the next few years, but it’s important to get the word out for those interested.
“For those that might want to preserve the legacy of what happened to them, they have the opportunity,” Schaefer said.
Schaefer says if you’d like to submit a Purple Heart recipients’ name to be registered to contact her directly at email@example.com