Veterans push for a Purple Heart ‘forever’ stamp

Thomas Desmond of West Nyack is a Rockland Korean War veteran leading a campaign in support of the Purple Heart postage stamp.

Veterans in Rockland County are rallying around a campaign to urge the U.S. Postal Service to issue a Purple Heart “forever stamp” that honors, in perpetuity, service members wounded or killed in combat.

Tom Desmond, a Korean War veteran, is leading the effort in Rockland. The West Nyack man has placed fliers and sign-up sheets at various senior centers in West Nyack, Nanuet and New City and at restaurants, police and Sheriff’s Department offices in New City. Desmond plans to distribute more sign-up sheets across the county.

Forever stamps can be used to mail a 1-ounce letter regardless of when the stamps are purchased or used and no matter how prices may change in the future.

A permanent Purple Heart stamp would show that the sacrifices of veterans are recognized, Desmond said.

“One of our guys, it took him 55 years to get his Purple Heart. That’s a long time,” Desmond said. “There are many others who still haven’t received their Purple Heart.”

The Purple Heart is a military decoration awarded in the name of the president of the United States to service members wounded or killed in war. The original purple heart, the Badge of Military Merit, was established by George Washington during the Revolutionary War.

Though a stamp honoring the Purple Heart is in circulation, it must be reissued because its rate increases annually. Veterans fear that as long as the postal service must decide annually whether to reprint the stamp, there is a possibility it might retire it.

A bill sponsored during the summer by then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., attempted to create a Purple Heart forever stamp.

A nationwide grass-roots signature campaign started a few months ago after veterans realized a permanent stamp cannot be created by legislation because congressional committees no longer consider such bills. The campaign hopes to create enough pressure on the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee that it seriously considers the request.

There is only one Forever stamp issued so far – the Liberty Bell stamp. If the postal service agrees to the veteran’s request, the Purple Heart Forever stamp would be the second.

As of now, however, the postal service said it was not considering issuing another forever stamp. Mark Saunders, a spokesman for the postal service, said the agency receives almost 50,000 suggestions every year for different kinds of stamps, but only about 20 are accepted.

“We have received correspondence from veterans groups,” Saunders said. “Our plans are to continue to reissuing a purple heart stamp shortly after prices change on postage.”

Such price changes usually take place in the spring.

In hopes to gather at least 15,000 signatures from Rockland, Desmond also plans to take the sign-up sheets to senior centers in in Nyack, Pearl River, Suffern, Stony Point and Haverstraw. He has also reached out to Italian- American clubs, Irish-American clubs and various veterans clubs in the region.

“A lot of veterans are disappointed that the post office doesn’t see this as an ongoing symbol,” said Jerry Donnellan, director of Rockland’s veteran’s agency.

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