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Group Joins Branson, Mo., in Saluting Purple Heart Veterans

By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 16, 2009 – The Military Order of the Purple Heart, a Virginia-based troop-support group, will join the city of Branson, Mo., April 24 and 25 in a special “Hand in Hand” weekend honoring Purple Heart veterans across the country.

The weekend will feature a wide variety of entertainment and sporting events designed specifically for wounded combat veterans, with free admission to all events.

“I want the general public, youth and all veterans to have the opportunity to learn more about the sacrifices that our veterans have made,” Marlyce Stockinger, director of advertising and public relations for Branson.com, said. “They still continue to be a very vital part of our communities. I think this is a very important event. I am hoping that as they gather together, they will be able to chat and grow with each other’s help.”

The event, sponsored by Branson.com and the Branson Tourism Center, is expected to draw a huge gathering of wounded warriors from across the country.

“Our 45,000 members are all aware of this wonderful tribute,” John E. Bircher III, director of public relations for Military Order of the Purple Heart, said. “We appreciate any event that honors the patriotic service of wounded warriors. In this case, the city of Branson has planned a wonderful weekend of free entertainment and events for not only Purple Heart recipients, but for all veterans.”

Registration for this “Hand in Hand” weekend will be held the morning of April 24. Registration is required for the April 25 fishing tournament, admission to all planned events and discounts at local merchants.

After registration, the opening ceremony will take place, including music and comedy entertainment. Army Col. (Dr.) Hemant Thakur, an expert on post-traumatic stress disorder, will participate as a guest speaker. Military Order of the Purple Heart Vice Commander Clayton Jones and Missouri officials also will take part in the opening ceremonies.

On April 25, a drawing will be held for participation in the fishing tournament. Also, Purple Heart recipients and a guest may attend the Missouri Wine Festival and watch Purple Heart parachutist Dallas Wittgenfeld free fall and land using the world’s largest American flag parachute at Chateau on the Lake.

Retired Army Sgt. Maj. Tony Rose, a 9/11 Pentagon survivor, will conclude events with remarks at the Purple Mountain Majesty Twilight Ceremony.

Events for the “Hand in Hand” weekend were planned by Branson.com, with the help of several local Purple Heart veterans.

“They wanted substance, as well as fun, so that is how I choose the programming,” Stockinger said. “I knew PTSD was a major issue, and I have great respect for the National Military Order of Purple Heart and how they reach out to veterans. The fishing trip was because of the healing that I kept hearing about that occurs when veterans have the opportunity to fish or be on the water. The entertainment shows are for fun and laughter.”

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