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The Military Order of the Purple Heart

For Immediate Release

Branson, MO April 29, 2010


“I have never been more proud to be an American and I have never felt so personally honored,” said one of the participants trying to describe his feelings about the special salute to Purple Heart veterans sponsored by Branson.Com.


For three fun-packed days, Purple Heart recipients from across the country gathered April 22-24, 2010 in Branson, Missouri to enjoy a wonderful, patriotic and rewarding “Hand in Hand” event.  The City of Branson graciously welcomed the visiting Purple Heart recipients with open arms, and our hosts for the weekend, Larry and Lianne Milton, founders and co-owners of Branson.com, could not have been more giving and generous.  Himself a Marine veteran, Larry made it possible for the Purple Heart recipients assembled to enjoy a fantastic three days of  music, comedy, fishing, food, veteran information and camaraderie.  Marlyce Stockinger, Larry’s alter ego, and Director of Public Relations for Branson.com, was the inspiration behind the event and our Mistress of Ceremonies for the week.  She not only brought the whole program to life, but was omnipresent – putting her red, white and blue (and purple) patriotic touch on every minute of the event.


Branson.com owners Larry & Lianne Milton with Candice & SSGT Jamie Pearce

Natl. Sr. Vice Cdr. Clayton Jones presents flowers to Marlyce Stockinger


Purple Heart recipients poured in from almost every state and represented every war from World War II until today, including a Pearl Harbor survivor, an Iwo Jima survivor, two Battle of the Bulge survivors, and a Merrill’s Marauder.  Also attending were Purple Heart recipients from Inchon, Khe Sanh, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, including a young Army Medic from the 82d Airborne Division, Alan Babin, who was severely wounded in Iraq while trying to reach and treat another wounded comrade.  Now confined to a wheelchair after more than 90 separate surgeries to save and restore his life, Alan’s infectious smile and cheerful attitude were an inspiration for all.


Louisiana Delegation

   Entertainer Barbara Fairchild and Alan Babin


Noted entertainer and Veteran Tony Orlando, whose song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around an Old Oak Tree” has become a patriotic classic, was present at Thursday’s registration and spent more than an hour talking, swapping stories, and posing for photos with all the Purple Heart recipients.  Also attending were SSGT(P) Jamie and Candice Pearce, the only known married couple who are both Purple Heart recipients and members of the MOPH. 


Marlyce Stockinger, Alain Babin, Tony Orlando, John Bircher, Clayton Jones

SSGT(P) Jamie & Candice Pearce carry torches


National Senior Vice Commander Clayton Jones helped to welcome all Purple Heart recipients, assisted by Springfield, Missouri Chapter 621, and Forsyth Chapter 784, who offered cold drinks, provided information on MOPH membership and swapped war stories.  Department of Missouri Commander Carl Dietrich, Past National Chaplain and Department Commander Jimmy Young, and other Missouri MOPH members helped to set the tone and atmosphere for the weekend as they paraded their miniature antique truck around the parking lot.


Patriots Dietrich & Young

 Mayor Raeanne Pressley &

CPL Eddie Beesley


During the opening ceremony, National Service Director Frank Van Hoy moderated a special panel of National Service Officers (NSO’s) that included Syd Stanton, Mark Horrell, Juliana Hensler, and Jason Million.  After making a presentation on recent changes in VA benefits and entitlements, the panel took questions from the audience for the benefit of all.  Members of the panel also made themselves available for the whole day on Friday for one-on-one sessions with those veterans who needed personal consultations.  Both the Thursday opening ceremony and the Friday day entertainment extravaganza took place in the Hamner-Barber Theater, thanks to the generosity of comedian and ventriloquist Jim Barber, and magician Dave Hamner who honored the Purple Heart recipients.


National Service Director Frank Van Hoy and NSO’s Horrell, Million, Hensler and Stanton

  Entertainer Dalena Ditto

kisses a PH Recipient


On Saturday morning, 31 Purple Heart fishermen dodged the rain clouds and braved the choppy waters of Table Rock Lake to participate in a fishing tournament sponsored by Branson.com. The day was made possible by professional bass fishermen who volunteered their time, boats, skill, and equipment.  The State of Missouri even waived the fishing permit fees for Purple Heart recipients.  One of the pros, Gary Malkin, an active duty Sergeant First Class drill instructor at Ft. Leonard Wood, and a seasoned competitor, came all the way to Branson in order to honor the Purple Heart recipients.  First place went to the team of Pro boater Mickey Parent, representing Nitro Boats, Tracker Marine and Bass Pro, and Purple Heart recipient Larry Seger of Kimberling City, MO, whose winning bass weighed in at 9.98 lbs.  For their efforts, Seger and Parent each received a $500 cash prize.  The day ended with an amazing fish fry with all the trimmings for the veterans and their families.


Winners Larry Seger & Mickey Parent

   Purple Heart Fishermen & their Pro’s


Recipients also attended the Missouri Wine Festival, featuring a wide variety of internationally recognized wines produced by the nearly 80 wineries in the state of Missouri.  Other exhibitors included artisan cheese makers, chocolatiers, gourmet foods, and fine cigars for the aficionado.


Fish fry out of the rain

PH Recipients attend Missouri Wine Festival


 On Saturday night, a driving rain and hurricane force winds drove the closing ceremony inside, but did not dampen the spirits of anyone as the evening was opened by “Six” singing the National Anthem while an ROTC honor guard posted the colors.  Retired USAF Colonel Jack Jackson, a three time Distinguished Flying Cross recipient and current Member of the Missouri Legislature, acted as the MC for the evening.  His first introduction was Branson Mayor Raeanne Pressley, who thanked the audience for coming to Branson.  Singers Barbara Fairchild and Roy Morris entertained the troops with a moving and patriotic program.  The keynote speaker was Rosalinda Babin, caregiver for her son Alan, who spoke about the many operations, difficult recovery, and adversity Alan and his family have faced since his being wounded while serving as a combat medic with the 82d Airborne Division in Iraq.  MOPH National Senior Vice Commander Clayton Jones capped the evening with the presentation of flowers to Marlyce Stockinger and her assistant, Tiffany Combs for making the event possible.


After three days of non-stop patriotic remembrance, great entertainment, delicious food, and warm fellowship, all the Purple Heart recipients who gathered in Branson felt truly honored.  As we bid each other farewell, we all promised that we would meet again next year for Branson.Com’s Hand-in-Hand weekend.  We all feel a debt of gratitude to one of the Marine Corps’ most patriotic veterans, Larry Milton, his wife Lianne, and to the amazing Mistress of Ceremonies and patriot extraordinaire, Marlyce Stockinger.  You make us proud to be America’s veterans. 


The organization now known as the "Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A. Inc.," (MOPH) was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all who have received the decoration. Chartered by the Congress, The MOPH is unique among Veteran Service Organizations in that all its members were wounded in combat. For this sacrifice, they were awarded the Purple Heart Medal. With grants from the MOPH Service Foundation, the MOPH and its Ladies Auxiliary promote Patriotism, Fraternalism, and the Preservation of America's military history. Most importantly, they provide comfort and assistance to all Veterans and their families, especially those requiring claims assistance with the VA, those who are homeless, and those requiring employment assistance.  Through the VAVS program, MOPH volunteers provide assistance to hospitalized veterans at VA sites and State Veterans Homes. 

For information contact:
National Public Relations Director, John Bircher, 352-753-5535
Email: PublicRelations@Purpleheart.org
MOPH on the Web
MOPH on Facebook
MOPH on Twitter
MOPH on YouTube

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