BATAVIA – Batavians always have had a soft spot in their hearts for military veterans, especially those killed or wounded in combat.
The Batavia City Council recently approved a proclamation declaring Batavia a Purple Heart City, formally honoring all service members who have received the prestigious medal for death or wounds at the hands of the enemy.
The recognition was sought by Kane County members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, a veterans’ group composed of the medal’s recipients.
Purple Heart veterans Jim Davidson of North Aurora and Richard Bee of Aurora were on hand at the June 4 council meeting to receive the proclamation from Mayor Jeff Schielke.
“I do hereby proclaim the city of Batavia to be a Purple Heart City honoring the service and sacrifice of our nation’s men and women in uniform, wounded or killed by the enemy while serving to protect our freedoms,” Schielke said.
Both Davidson and Bee received the Purple Heart during service in the Vietnam War.
Davidson was a member of the U.S. Army’s famed 101st Airborne Division. He received the Purple Heart three times as an infantryman before the Army made him a door gunner on a Huey helicopter.
Bee served two tours with the Army in Vietnam, first as an infantryman and then with an engineering unit.
Both men were in Vietnam during the late 1960s, but their paths crossed much more recently as members of the Fox Valley Veterans Breakfast Club, a group that meets at a restaurant in Montgomery.
When wearing hats or shirts identifying themselves as Purple Heart veterans, the two men are sure to get reactions from people.
“I can’t get through the grocery store without people stopping and thanking me,” Bee said.
Davidson said the well-wishes from the public are much appreciated. It was different when they initially were discharged from the service.
“When we came home, we just came home,” Davidson said of the absence of much of a welcome from the public.
It was not until the Chicago Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home Parade in 1986 that the healing truly began, Davidson said.
“When we came back from the war, people didn’t know what we had seen,” Bee said.
Davidson and Bee said the Military Order of the Purple Heart is seeking the Purple Heart City recognition from other communities in the Fox Valley.