Military veterans on Tuesday presented the Mayor and City Commission of Pierre with Purple Heart road signs and two “combat wounded” signs.
Ken Teunissen of Sioux Falls handed the signs to Mayor Steve Harding.
A retired colonel in the South Dakota National Guard, Harding is deputy secretary of the state’s Department of the Military.
Teunissen is commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart for South Dakota and North Dakota.
He was wounded in combat while with the Army in Vietnam in 1970 and received the Purple Heart, the nation’s oldest military medal, dating to George Washington.
“Still got the shrapnel in my knee,” he told the Capital Journal on Tuesday.
Teunissen is a state leader in veterans issues. With him Tuesday was Don Loudner.
A member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe southeast of Pierre, Loudner is national commander of the National American Indian Veterans Association, which he says represents military veterans from 567 Indian tribes in the United States.
That includes one elderly one they saw on Tuesday.
Teunissen and Loudner visited a Native American who is a World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient living in a Pierre nursing home. The WWII vet is a relative of Loudner’s.
The mission of the Order of the Purple Heart is “to foster an environment of goodwill and camaraderie among combat wounded veterans, promote patriotism, support necessary legislative initiatives, and most importantly, provide service to all veterans and their families.”
Members are a select group: veterans who were wounded in combat.
But the group supports all veteran issues and family members.
Teunissen said there are about 270 veterans with Purple Hearts in South Dakota. The Military Order of the Purple Heart donates four “Purple Heart City” signs to a city that proclaims itself a Purple Heart City, he said. “We donate four signs, one for each direction,” he told the Capital Journal. “We also donate two “Combat Wounded” signs and two ‘Veterans Only Park’ signs.”
The road-ready signs are made by state prison inmates at Pheasantland Industries in Sioux Falls, he said.
The signs are a public and civic way to “recognize those who are Purple Heart recipients and to help bring awareness to the veterans,” Teunissen said.
This also will put Pierre on the trail of Purple Heart communities that begins at Mount Vernon, Washington’s Virginia home, Teunissen said.