Ralls County recognized as a Purple Heart County


Above from left: Brian Hodges, Ralls County Commissioner of the Western District; Junior Muehring, Ralls County Commissioner of the Eastern District; John Lake, Ralls County Presiding Commissoner. Below, from left: Walter Schley, financial officer of the Military Order of Purple Heart and George Befort III, Senior Vice President of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Photo by Rockin J. Photo Co.

NEW LONDON, Mo. – Travelers through Ralls County, Mo., will soon see signs honoring veterans who were wounded or killed in combat. 

Senior Vice President George Befort III and Finance Office Walter Schley of the Military Order of the Purple Heart recognized Ralls County as a Purple Heart County in a ceremony on Sept. 14 at the Ralls County Courthouse.

Befort has received two Purple Hearts, and Schley has received one Purple Heart.

The Purple Heart was the first military award made available to the common soldier. The first service member to receive the Purple Heart was Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1932 for his service in the Pacific theater (specifically in the Philippines) during World War II.

Ralls County Commissioners John Lake, Junior Muehring and Brian Hodges were presented with a plaque and five road signs indicating the county’s Purple Heart status. The commissioners also designated August 7 as the county’s annual Purple Heart Day. 

Ralls County Clerk Brandy Flynn said Befort’s goal is for all 114 Missouri counties to be Purple Heart counties. The Military Order of the Purple Heart website reports there are now 63 Purple Heart counties, not including Ralls County.

To receive the special designation, the county submitted a proclamation to the Military Order of the Purple Hearts requesting the Purple Heart status in an effort to show appreciation for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. 

“This is our way of honoring them,” Flynn said. “We appreciate the sacrifices that they made not only for their country, but for their families, and the citizens of Ralls County.”

With permission from MoDot, the signs will be placed along county lines on Highway 79; entering Ralls County on Highway 19; west of Perry on Highway 54; and entering Ralls County on US 61. They are still determining the location of the fifth sign.  

Flynn said they are already planning displays for next August to recognize Ralls County’s Purple Heart Day and she hopes citizens and organizations will join them.  

“We just hope that everybody in the county will observe the day to say ‘Thank you,’” she said. “We have Veterans Day, but we also want to honor them on Purple Heart Day.”

The ceremony performed on Sept. 14 also included the National Anthem sung by Koryn Miller, daughter of Mike and Sarah Miller. Guests were greeted by Tom and Becky Ambassadors, Gabe Dryden and Darby Rollins – both Ralls County residents. 

The opening prayer was led by local veteran Heather Semkin, and the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Tom Trower and Kristal Hiner.

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