America Supports You: Lake Michigan Cruise Recognizes Veterans
By Meghan Vittrup
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 24, 2008 Veterans can once again enjoy an afternoon cruising Lake Michigan, sharing tributes and building relationships thanks to one Illinois group.
Kup’s Purple Heart Cruises began in 1945 when Irv Kupcinet also known as “Kup,” a Chicago Sun Times columnist, wanted to do something for servicemembers coming back from World War II.
The 50-year tradition ended with its last cruise in 1995. Twelve years later, David Kupcinet decided to re-launch his grandfather’s renowned Kup’s Purple Heart Cruises.
After fours year of planning the successfully re-launched cruise took place July 31, 2007.
Kupcinet said the cruise is a way to show appreciation to veterans for their service to the country.
Kup’s Purple Heart Cruise is an “effort to highlight citizen support for our military men and women and communicate that support to the members of our armed forces at home and abroad,” according to a news release from the group.
Last year, Kupcinet said, it took three and a half months to fill the 500 spots on the cruise, but “it was so successful last year it took three and a half weeks to hit capacity this year.”
The cruise is not only for veterans but also active-duty servicemembers. Kupcinet said veterans range in age from 19 to 91.
“The most interesting thing was seeing the relationships built between old time veterans and [Afghanistan and Iraq] veterans,” Kupcinet said. “The connection between … veterans in their 20s and a guy from World War II, for example, is really a pretty amazing thing to see.”
“These relationships are long-lasting relationships,” said Dan Casara, a Purple Heart recipient and participant in Kup’s Purple Heart Cruise. He was wounded Sept. 23, 2005, when a roadside bomb flipped his tank. He said he tries to use such events to network, meet new people, and build lasting relationships that will turn into friendships.
Kupcinet said it is a great experience to see both young and older veterans interacting and still holding on to deep military ties and traditions, including the playful arguments over which branch of the military is the strongest.
“It’s also very funny to see the branches still mess with each other even so many years after they’ve been in service,” Kupcinet said. “We had an 89-year-old Marine and 90-year-old sailor in the Navy, and at those ages they were still messing with each other about who was tougher.”
The Purple Heart Cruise event takes place in two parts. The first part is the pierside send-off ceremony that includes presentations and speeches from the honorary chairman as well as dignitaries. There also are military and Defense Department tributes to the veterans, Kupcinet said.
The cruise itself is the second part of the event; it is a four-hour cruise on Lake Michigan that includes of food, entertainment and camaraderie.
“It was really nice,” Casara said. “It was refreshing to see other Purple Heart recipients, … whether they were of this conflict or prior conflicts, to come out and enjoy themselves.”
This year’s Kup’s Purple Heart Cruise will take place July 31 at Navy Pier in Chicago.
Kup’s Purple Heart Foundation is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program that seeks to focus public support for the men and women in the military.