Thurston and Lewis counties are currently the only two Washington counties officially recognized as Purple Heart Counties, a ceremonial designation to honor members of the armed services who have been killed or wounded in action.
Mary Astrid, founder of a Purple Heart committee, wants to extend that honor to the entire state.
“It bothered me that the remaining 37 counties had no Purple Heart designation. That’s when in July of 2020, I reached out to Representative Ed Orcutt’s office asking for his help to become a ‘Purple Heart State,’” said Astrid in official testimony on House Bill 1250, a bill which, if passed, would officially designate the state of Washington as a Purple Heart State.
“She sent me an email and I said ‘let’s do this,” said Rep. Orcutt, R-Kalama, the primary sponsor of the bill.
Also sponsoring HB 1250 are representatives Cindy Ryu, D-Shoreline, Matt Boehnke, R-Kennewick, Jeremie Dufault, R-Yakima, and Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane. The bill was introduced on Jan. 18 and referred to the Committee on State Government and Tribal Relations.
“Veterans Day is once a year with parades; store front windows have ‘Thank You Troops’ and then washed off for the next holiday,” Astrid said in her testimony. “Purple Heart State would be a permanent, visible, year-round thank you to the men and women that recognizes their courage and commitment in protecting our freedom.”
Astrid testified in favor of the bill on Jan. 27, along with Alfie Alvarado, director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, and former Lewis County Commissioner Edna Fund.
“I want to let you know, Mary Astrid, she’s our Lewis County sparkplug who gets things done, and here she does it again,” Fund said in her testimony. “I really appreciate the movement and thank you to Rep. Orcutt for putting this forward, and I would appreciate all the members of the committee and the rest of the Legislature to approve this bill so we can honor those who receive the Purple Heart.”
The designation would authorize state departments to erect signs — especially at the entry points to the state — recognizing that Washington is a Purple Heart State, and allow departments to accept gifts or donations to cover the cost of the signs.
“It’s basically making a statement that we really appreciate our military, especially our military members who have been wounded in combat,” Orcutt said. “I think it’s always a good reminder that freedom is not free, there are costs to our military personnel and their families.”
The Purple Heart medal was officially created on Feb. 22, 1932 — George Washington’s 200th birthday — in recognition acts of merit that occurred during World War I, and the medal is now awarded to members of the armed services who are killed or wounded in action.
Lewis County became a Purple Heart County in November 2019, and an official “Purple Heart County” sign now hangs below the “Entering Lewis County” sign in the 3900 block of Harrison Avenue. At the time, The Chronicle reported that nearly 8,000 veterans resided in Lewis County, and of those, 480 were awarded Purple Heart medals.