Woodland Park Gains More Military Distinction as “Purple Heart Community”

New Signs Honor Heroic Veterans and Their Family Members

 Trevor Phipps

With its prime location, next to several well-known military bases, Teller County and Southern Colorado has become a prime spot for active-duty military personnel and for service veterans.

Many military veterans, stationed at local bases, choose to stay in the local region  following their service, with the mountain setting emerging a big motivating factor.

Woodland Park has gained more distinction with its links to the military community, a trend that is continuing at an aggressive pace.

With help from various organizations, Woodland Park was recently given the title as a “Purple Heart Community.” The announcement was initially made during last  month’s Salute to American Veterans Rally ceremony. A sign, with the description, “Woodland Park a Purple Heart Community Established 2023,” was unveiled.

During an earlier  meeting in September, the council made it more official with a proclamation, designating Woodland Park a “Purple Heart City.” During the meeting, another “Purple Heart” sign was unveiled for the community.

During the presentation, local Purple Heart Recipient John Bartlett outlined the importance of this designation and what it means to Purple Heart recipients. Bartlett earned his Purple Heart while serving the country as a captain in the military during the Vietnam War.

  Bartlett talked about all of the positive comments he received, following the ceremony at the Salute to American Veterans Rally, and especially the mention of the Purple Heart designation. He also passed pins around to the council to further tout the Purple Heart honor.

He said that the pins are worn to strike conversations about what receiving a Purple Heart means. Bartlett said that he believes it is important to explain to people (especially children) the meaning behind the pins and the sign.

“The special blessing in my mind about the Purple Heart Sign is that we have been blessed with donations,” Bartlett said at the council meeting. “Jim Wear and Pro Promotions donated the first sign you saw at the event.”

Bartlett said that the local American Legion, the VFW, Councilman Frank Connors and himself all made donations for more signs. “We have enough people committed to five signs or maybe six for Woodland Park,” Bartlett explained. “We feel that’s helpful and it is up to the council to decide where the signs are to be placed and properly installed. The only thing the Military Order of the Purple Heart asks is that it be in an honorable place and a place where people get the chance to see it to help memorialize the Purple Heart and the sacrifices of the family too.”

Mayor Pro Tem Kellie Case first made the proclamation to declare the city a Purple Heart Community at the Veterans Rally. “At the rally at John’s request, I prepared and read a proclamation declaring Woodland Park as a Purple Heart City,” Case said. “And I have the document here framed and I wanted to tell John and share with the public that we will hang this here in the city hall in the council chambers so that it is available for the public to see.”

According to Bartlett the city followed all of the steps required by the Military Order of the Purple Heart to designate Woodland Park with this honor. “The Military Order of the Purple Heart is a fraternal organization of veterans awarded or recipients of the Purple Hearts,” Bartlett said. “They require a proclamation. They require a gathering or an event. And they require that placement be taken care of by community leaders. We fulfilled all three of those.”

According to Mayor Hilary LaBarre, the city staff will work directly with Bartlett to determine exactly where all of the Purple Heart signs will be placed. “The first sign is going to go at the entrance of the city of Woodland Park,” LaBarre said. “It will be where we have some other signature signs.”

Woodland Park Now One of a Handful of “Purple Heart Cities”

Purple Hearts are a special award given to those who made the ultimate sacrifice during wartime. The only people who have Purple Hearts are either people who were wounded in battle or family members of those who lost their lives while at war.

According to Connors (who is the Veterans’ Affairs Liaison to the city council), the Military Order of the Purple Heart also provides services to help veterans. Suicide prevention and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are major focuses of the organization.

According to PurpleHeart.org, only two other cities (Brighton and Longmont) have been designated as Purple Heart Communities in Colorado. However, earlier this year it was announced that Pueblo West was added to the list as well as Woodland Park.

Bartlett said that he wishes the sign would be placed at every entrance to the city and at Memorial Park.