Travellers along the highway in Cooper County will now notice a new sign that features the image of Purple Heart Medal, like those awarded to soldiers who have been wounded or killed while serving in the United State military.

Cooper has been designated a “Purple Heart County” in conjunction with the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the American Legion. Around three dozen people attended the designation Wednesday afternoon at the Cooper County despite the harsh weather, including Gov. Mike Parson who was the keynote speaker at the designation. 

Parson spoke about Missouri’s appreciation of the military, his own experience in the military and the importance of those who sacrificed themselves.

“I think it’s a great distinction for Cooper County,” Parson said. “...It’s a great honor and I think it shows how much the people respect the veterans of our country and how much they support them.”

Cooper County’s designation is meant to serve as a reminder of the sacrifices veterans have made to preserve freedom, Parson said.

“It gives people a reminder,” he said. “I think we should always be reminded of the sacrifices people make.”

American Legion Chaplain Bryce Lockwood spoke about the history of the Purple Heart medal at the designation. Originally called the Badge of Military Merit, the Purple Heart was created by George Washington on Aug. 7, 1782. The badge was the first time an enlisted soldier received a commendation, Lockwood said. Up until that point only military officers were eligible for awards.

“After the Revolutionary War, the Badge of Military Merit fell into disuse,” Lockwood said. “It was not awarded again until Gen. Douglas MacArthur authorized an updated version.”

The updated design, which features a bust of Washington on a Purple Heart, was reinstated in 1932.

“It is a medal that no one seeks to obtain, but it truly represents the high price we pay for our freedom,” Lockwood said.

Presiding Commissioner Don Baragary echoed the sentiment of Parson and Lockwood.

“We want to be able to honor all those that have served, especially those that have received the Purple Heart,” Baragary said. “They’ve made a big sacrifice for us. ...We have the freedoms that we have today because of those who served before us.”

Given the weather conditions Wednesday, Baragary said he was happy to see such a large turnout for the designation. Most of those in attendance were veterans or veterans’ family members.

“It was the crowd that we expected, but not in weather like this,” Baragary said. “...I think that everyone that came here today was here because they wanted to honor the veterans as well.”