Connecting Purple Heart Recipients with American History

WBP Staff Writer Helen Phillips

May 8, 2024

At the Warrior Bonfire Program we have tapped into an interesting realization that connecting veterans with the rich tapestry of our nation’s past, its people, and its landscapes creates a deep sense of pride and honor, as they have significantly played a role in sustaining our nation’s freedoms. Through visits to iconic historical locations, our heroes embark on a journey of remembrance, reflection, and renewal. We have tossed tea into the Boston harbor, participated in an Indian sweat lodge ceremony, visited battlefields, stood silent at Ground Zero, and flew in WWII aircraft to name a few. All these experiences have left our members realizing the importance of their service.

History & Hockey in Norfolk, Virginia took us back to the very early days of our nation to the time of the American Revolution at Colonial Williamsburg. Here our hearts were set on fire by Thomas Jefferson and Marquis de Lafayette, by reminding us that the republic must be defended. Our next stop was at the USS Wisconsin, one of the US Navy’s largest and last built battleships. Lastly on the history tour we visited and climbed the 191 steps of the Cape Henry Lighthouse at Fort Story. Hockey was also on the agenda! We cheered the Norfolk Admirals to victory and received a standing ovation when introduced over the jumbotron.

As powerful as all of this was, the fact that we learned that all our participants on this retreat were wounded within seven months of one another in Iraq in 2005. A great silence fell among the group as each reflected on their experience, where they were on their journey through life, and that these brothers felt the same heaviness at that very moment. A bond created that will last a lifetime. Although the number of years is the same, their place in the journey was still unique for each, but a desire to support each other, meeting their comrades where they are, became the theme.

The Warrior Bonfire Program is not simply providing retreats; we are offering a lifeline to those who have sacrificed for our freedom. By connecting Purple Heart recipients with American history, we honor their service, celebrate their resilience, and ensure that their legacy endures for generations to come.

Special thanks to the Board of Director Secretary Kathy Steuber for organizing and assisting with this retreat.