By Kari Haahr, OAN Newspaper Assistant
In the warm, early morning hours of August 5, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community hosted the 2nd Annual Purple Heart Fun Run/Walk at the Two Waters complex courtyard. Community members and supporters filled out registration forms and received commemorative shirts in preparation for the walk to pay tribute to the brave military men and women who have selflessly served their nation and have been awarded the Purple Heart.
SRPMIC Veterans Representative Troy Truax welcomed everyone in attendance and introduced Jason Parker of the Arizona Military Order of the Purple Heart, who gave brief remarks explaining how the Purple Heart medal is awarded to soldiers who are wounded in combat.
“I’m a Purple Heart recipient from Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003,” Parker said. “I earned my Purple Heart getting hit with shrapnel from a hand grenade. Then I came back and got involved with the [Military Order of the Purple Heart], which has been really helping me with the transition back to civilian life.”
He added that the members of the Arizona Military Order of the Purple Heart are grateful for what the Community has done to acknowledge Purple Heart recipients.
“We’re here today to celebrate the three elements which bring us all together, which are bravery, resilience and unity,” Parker said. He followed the introduction with a moment of silence before returning the microphone to Truax.
Truax then described the significance of Purple Heart Day, which is August 7, and highlighted the signs posted throughout the Community which serve as a reminder of this facet of Salt River’s identity.
Members of the Salt River Royalty were then introduced, and they emphasized the importance of staying hydrated before reading the names of Community members who have received a Purple Heart. In attendance was one on that list, Cameron Grey Sr.
Then it was time to start the 1.5-mile run/walk. At the starting line, Kevin Riding-In led the crowd in a series of warm-up stretches.
As the last of the participants, some of whom went for a second lap, returned to the courtyard, they refueled with fruit and electrolytes thanks to a supply of H3O fitness beverages provided by Kevin Dalton of Good Life Nutrition.
The event saw an impressive turnout of approximately 125 attendees, with some participants traveling all the way from Tucson.
As a final thank-you, Parker presented commemorative Purple Heart Supporter Coins to Troy Truax Jr., Amanda White, Kevin Riding-In, the Salt River Court, and the two runners who finished first, Melissa Jackson and Patrick Shaw.
Opportunities to connect to community like this help bridge the gap between civilians and veterans, which in turn helps foster understanding of what it means to be a Purple Heart Community and how to continue honoring that designation. The event also provided a platform for veterans to connect, share their experiences and form bonds that can aid in their journey through life after returning from conflict.