WILMINGTON — Bladen County was well represented recently when a Purple Heart Dinner was held at the Wilmington Convention Center.
In addition to a pair of Purple Heart recipients from Bladen County, George Moore and Marrell Freemen, attending the event, there were also a handful of volunteers from the Elizabethtown Walmart who attended to act as servers for the dinner.
Bill Ebersbach, who is the commander of the local Military Order of the Purple Heart, said the dinner was sponsored by Walmart.
The four employees of the local Walmart who volunteered were Bonnie McDaniels, Tonya Walters, JoAnn Schriver and Tina Brock.
“We all four served,” Brock said. “We were all in the grand ballroom serving the families before the Purple Heart recipients came out.”
Brock said she comes from a military family herself and is active in things that pertain to veterans.
“I’m real active with the veterans when they sell poppies here,” said Brock. She added that a group of store associates talked it over and decided they wanted to volunteer.
“I just wanted to go down there to honor and help out the veterans and soldiers,” said Brock.
Ebersbach said the Purple Heart Dinner came about as a result of a conversation with Michael Johnson of Wake Forest.
“He was talking to a veteran one night and asked him if there was anything they could do. He said ‘say thank you.’ So we decided we would hold a purple heart reception,” said Ebersbach.
The dinners have been held so far in Wake Forest, Goldsboro, Winston Salem and Wilmington — and next year’s event will be held in Charlotte, followed by events in Asheville and Jacksonville.
Ebersbach said that 750 people showed up for the event in Wilmington. Of those, 75 were Purple Heart recipients. He said the recipients covered all wars from the 1940s to the present.
He said in addition to honoring the Purple Heart recipients, the World War II veterans present were also honored even if they did not receive a Purple Heart, due to the fact next year celebrates the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Ebersbach also said there were seven Gold Star mothers in attendance of the dinner.
“A Gold Star mother is the mother of men and women who have died while serving their country. One of those mothers is the mother of a Purple Heart recipient who was killed in combat,” said Ebersbach.