Going the distance for Purple Heart Veterans. A 42-mile trek to end on RI’s Purple Heart Highway

This Friday, June 25th from 8am to 4pm, VFW Dept RI Sr Vice Commander Joe “Tiger” Patrick will finish a 42-mile trek along Rhode Island’s Purple Heart Highway. The event starts at the Division St on-ramp on Rt. 4 South, and will finish at the South Kingstown War Veteran Monument (near Wakefield Elementary School), 101 High Street, in South Kingstown.

VFW Post Commander Joe “Tiger” Patrick will finish the 42-mile trek along Rhode Island’s newly minted Purple Heart Highway this Friday to bring awareness to our local veterans in need.  Patrick split the trail into two trips, completing the southern half in May before Memorial Day.  On the 25th, he will complete the northern half of the Trail which covers East Greenwich to South Kingstown.

“Too often, our local Purple Heart Veterans go unnoticed, or without the help and assistance they’ve earned with their own blood,” Patrick said. “If my walking along Rhode Island’s Purple Heart Trail helps connect them to those services, and bring them the recognition they deserve – it’s well worth the distance.”

Last year in the midst of the pandemic, with the help of Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (Dist. 33 – South Kingstown, Narragansett), Rep. Kathleen Fogarty (Dist. 35 – South Kingstown) and other locally elected state officials from the towns along the route, Patrick was able to spearhead the inception of the Purple Heart Highway Trail.

Although there’s similar highway dedications found all over the country, this particular route – which runs through East Greenwich, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Narragansett, Charlestown and all the way to the Westerly / CT border – has been a unique collaborative effort. With Westerly and North Kingstown already on board as Purple Heart Towns, in a matter of months, Patrick was able to work with local leaders in the other 4 communities to declare themselves Purple Heart Towns. When he turned to his state representatives to see about having Routes 1 & 4 declared as the state’s Purple Heart Highway, they were eager to help. 

Thankfully, the initiative also won the support of the entire General Assembly.

“This is big,” Patrick said. “Other Purple Heart Trails across the country might be a small strip running through a community or town, but Rhode Island’s runs through six different communities.”  “Our trail is by far the most scenic in the country,” he added “as it runs along our beautiful coastline.”

Even though the route runs through southern Rhode Island, the positive impacts are expected to be far reaching — especially considering how heavily trafficked the roadway gets in the summer months as Rhode Islanders and tourists make their way to the beaches. 

In addition to bringing awareness to the veterans, themselves, Patrick hopes his trek down the Purple Heart Highway, with a US flag and trail sign in hand, will educate civilians too. “Many people have never heard of the Purple Heart Trail, and it’s our job to educate them to it’s tender significance.

This Friday, Patrick will begin his long journey on Division Street in East Greenwich at 8:30 a.m. and will follow the highway all the way down to the South Kingstown Veteran’s War Memorial in Saugatucket Park. 

Unlike other military awards and recognitions, the Purple Heart is reserved for those who were killed or injured while in combat in the line of duty for our country. 

“We want them to be proud of their service and bring them to a place where they’re willing to accept help,” he added. “And even if they’re not looking for any kind of assistance, we want to provide them that their community and state is really proud of them and their service” 

The Ocean State is home to more than 1,300 Purple Heart Veterans, according to Patrick, but an estimated 500 veterans are not receiving any services thru the VA.

“These services are life changing,” he added, making it possible for veteran’s to receive quality healthcare, funding for higher education and even home loans. “The veteran community is very  proud, and can shy away from reaching out for help, but we want to show them it’s okay to ask for a little help, because help is available and they earned every bit of it.” 

Patrick’s trek on Friday June 25th is also a warm up to the formal dedication of the RI Purple Heart Trail on National Purple Heart Day, Saturday August 7, 2021. The day will start off with a motorcycle rally in the morning with formal ceremonies in the early afternoon at the Westerly Elks Lodge.

For those wishing to support the Veterans of Foreign Wars Dept of RI with their mission to assist RI Veterans can donate here:

Joe “Tiger” Patrick II

CDR VFW 916  2018-Present

SVC VFW RI 2021-22 – 401-677-9374

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