Volusia County will soon officially be one of over 900 locations part of the Purple Heart trail in the U.S.
The date is July 19, 1968, and Rod Phillips is an 18-year-old Army soldier in Vietnam.
At that point, he'd been in combat for a little over seven months with the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division. He used to regularly walk point with a slack man to scout out the land ahead of the company. Ironically, he wasn't actively looking for the enemy when he earned his Purple Heart medal.
“That’s a day that I will never forget," Phillips said.
He and the rest of his company walked into an ambush that day in Vietnam. Phillips was shot in the arm, and after recovering, he would remain in Vietnam until the end of the year.
Now, Phillips is the committee chairman for the Military Order of the Purple Heart Volusia County Chapter 316, and he worked with Jeff Bumb, former Volusia County director of veteran services, to bring awareness to all Purple Heart recipients in the area by making Volusia a Purple Heart County. The county issued a proclamation for this effort and qualified it May 1, wrote Pat Kuehn, county community information specialist, in an email.
All that's left to do is present the proclamation to the Volusia County Council, which will take place at the council meeting on Aug. 7 — also known as Purple Heart Day in the U.S. Phillips is inviting every veteran service organization to send a delegate on their behalf, and he's also extending an invitation to all local veterans to attend the County Council meeting.
“We would like to fill the County chambers that day with as many veterans and families as we possibly can," Phillips said.
He will give a 15-minute presentation to the County Council explaining the Purple Heart Trail and the importance of raising awareness. The Council members will also receive a small token for their support.
“This is a perfect way to honor our Volusia County Purple Heart recipients and to show our support for all our Volusia County Veterans," wrote Dona Butler, interim director for veteran services, in a statement.
The Purple Heart County designation does not cost the County anything.
Phillips began thinking about the initiative since January of this year. As someone who spent 10 years in the military and whose grandfather and father were also in the Army, he continues to help local veterans. This is just another way to raise awareness in Volusia County.
"The designation as a Purple Heart County is an opportunity for the citizens of Volusia County to show our gratitude and to honor the men and women who have given their lives or were wounded in defending our great country," wrote Butler in a statement.