ELLIJAY, Ga. (AP) - Some military veterans who were wounded in combat often try to move on from their experience in the military and get on with their lives, said Mike Pilvinsky.
“They have their lives, they have their education, they’re raising families, so they don’t have time for a lot of this veterans stuff,” said Pilvinsky, of Ellijay. “They don’t have time to march in a parade or go to meetings and stuff like that.”
Pilvinsky wants to create a new chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) in north Georgia. The MOPH is a congressionally-chartered veterans organization for those who received the Purple Heart award while serving in the military.
“Unfortunately, the closest chapter (located in Rome) to Dalton, Chatsworth and Ellijay is at least 50 miles away,” said Pilvinsky. “This is inconvenient for many people and for that very reason there are a number of Purple Heart recipients in the area who never join the organization.”
The Purple Heart is an award given to those who were wounded in combat while serving in any branch of the U.S. military. Pilvinsky said he hopes to reach out to all veterans in the north Georgia area who have received the award.
“I think it’s important that they know about the organization because there might be some benefits for them that they aren’t aware of,” said Pilvinsky, such as dealing with paperwork from the Veterans Administration.
Pilvinsky said once founded, the chapter will focus on assisting all veterans in the area.
“We would be helping all veterans, not just wounded veterans,” he said. “We would participate in community events, provide visitations for veterans in retirement homes and even go to schools to talk to students.”
Larry Fraliex, of Ellijay, is helping Pilvinsky organize the new chapter. He and Pilvinsky served in the Army during the Vietnam War and both received Purple Hearts. He said he hopes the organization can grow and sustain a strong program with the help of many area veterans.
“What I’d really like to see is our organization help the schools by being present for them if they need anything and maybe offering some sort of scholarship,” said Fraliex. “We may not be able to get to that point the first year, but we’ll plan to grow every year. This is where we would want young members to join us.”
Both men hope to recruit members of all ages to start the chapter. Their hope is the younger members would be able to bring a different perspective to the organization and help continue the program into the future.
“We’ve already talked to many Purple Heart veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Pilvinsky. “One guy was 23 years old. We’re really looking for guys like that to join and sustain the organization.”
He said there are many young veterans who were wounded and are not aware of how to deal with the psychological stress of war.
“A lot of young people out there experienced things we never have,” said Pilvinsky. “There was no (post-traumatic stress disorder) when we went to Vietnam. That wasn’t talked about. A lot of men and women out there that were wounded, we can reach out to them and educate them on help they can get.”
In order to start the chapter, Pilvinsky said the group needs to have at least 12 Purple Heart recipients registered. In order to join, veterans must present documentation stating when and how they received their Purple Heart. People can also join as associate members if they can show evidence that a close relative was a Purple Heart recipient.
“I’m really excited about it,” said Fraliex. “Number one, being able to help other vets is great. Then number two, educating the community about these vets. It will really help.”
An organizational meeting will be in Ellijay on Monday to see how many people are interested in joining.
“A lot of what we want to do depends on how many people we get to sign up and help us get this started,” he said. “We’ll figure out what we can do once we get our numbers and we get chartered.”
Pilvinksy said his hope is to get a stable membership and program and to sustain it for years to come.
“We want to become recognized as an important part of the veterans community and an important part of our local community,” he said. “I want us to be a group of people that can show that not only did we bleed for our country, but we help our community as well.”
Fraliex echoed Pilvinsky.
“Here’s the thing about the Purple Heart - it’s not a Vietnam thing,” he said. “This organization covers all conflicts and branches. We want to bring them all in. The old, the young, the middle. Whatever it takes.”
Information from: The Daily Citizen, https://www.daltondailycitizen.com
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