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America Supports You: Purple Heart Cruises to Resume

By Ashleigh Covington
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2006 –

A tradition that lasted a half century is being renewed on the shores of Lake Michigan.


In the aftermath of World War II, Irv “Kup” Kupcinet, a columnist for the Chicago Sun Times, wanted to reach out to servicemembers to show his gratitude for their service to the country.


Kupcinet would take patients from veterans hospitals to Lake Michigan for a day of food and fun, said Eric Schuller, senior policy advisor to Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn. From 1945 to 1995, Kupcinet offered Purple Heart recipients the opportunity to spend a day on a lake cruise and partake in a luncheon and reception in their honor.


“He had this annual cruise that provided a relaxing type of day on the lake,” said Schuller. “It grew tremendously; in fact he had several presidents who helped. The Navy always brought a ship a frigate of some sort to use for the cruise.”


Now, the columnist’s grandson is reviving the tradition. Dave Kupcinet and Schuller announced today that the Purple Heart Cruises will resume in July 2007.


“We came up with the idea because we now have a whole group of servicemembers who are in need of this, Schuller said. “We want to show how much they mean to us, and salute them for their heroic efforts. So July 31 of this year, Kup’s birthday, the Chicago Sun Times is unveiling a statue in his honor. … We figured that it would be the perfect day to announce the Purple Heart Cruise in (his) memory.”


With overwhelming support from Chicago and other surroundings areas, Schuller said he anticipates that the cruise’s reintroduction will be a nationwide success. Calling upon national corporations, public figures, and even the braches of military, Kupicent and Schuller said, they want everyone to be involved.


“We’re in the process of doing some fundraisers; we’ve gotten some commitment from Jay Leno to come in and host a fundraiser in October for this. So what we’re doing then is building up momentum to get this going,” Schuller said. “No group has said no. It’s looking very positive for the whole thing to come together.  We’ll even be working then with different veterans and different veterans groups to get servicemembers to attend this cruise next year.”


The duo hopes to mirror Kup’s successes, providing those servicemembers who have received Purple Hearts the same appreciation as Kup had done decades before. 


“What we want to do is build on what he had. He had between 700 and 1,200 servicemembers, and not just from Chicago, but from all over the country,” said Schuller. 


“We want to make sure that it’s done right, that it’s done first class, and that the members of the military are honored the way they should be,” Schuller continued. “They’ve shed blood for this country. And we want to make sure that they are honored in every way.”

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