Members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), Department of Missouri, attended Tuesday’s Neosho City Council meeting to officially bestow the honor of Purple Heart City upon the community.
Paul E. weeks, commander, Chapter 621, Springfield; John D. Dismer, Chapter 621; and GySgt. Bryce F. Lockwood, senior vice commander, Missouri, listened as Charles Collinsworth, mayor pro tem, read a proclamation designating Neosho as a Purple Heart City, and the trio then presented Collinsworth a colorful plaque in recognition of the honor.
Lockwood said designating new cities as a Purple Heart City provides the MOPH, “The satisfaction of having been blessed with survivalship.”
“It really is a promotion for the city, when the signs go up to the entrances to the city, it lets folks know that are coming here for the first time that this city is friendly to people affiliated with the military and especially those who have been wounded in combat,” he said.
Neosho joins 24 other Missouri cities and nine counties that have received the special distinction to date, which Lockwood said places the community on the Purple Heart Trail, which is identified by highway signage. He said Interstates 70 and 44 are designated as Purple Heart Trails entirely across the state, and they are working toward getting that recognition for I-49.
“Our Military Order of the Purple Heart, Department of Missouri, paid for the signs, they were free gratis to the state of Missouri,” he said.
Lockwood said the program provides publicity for the MOPH and all of its benevolent endeavors, and helps with setting up fundraisers to pay for their charitable acts.
“We’ll pass out violas on Veterans Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Purple Heart Day, which is the 7th of August. We’ll have various retail stores that we’ll contact and ask to set up a table or a booth, and then we’ll pass out violas and tell a little of our history to folks that pass by,” said Lockwood.
The MOPH is the only service organization comprised entirely of combat wounded veterans.
“You must be wounded in combat by an opposing armed force in order to receive the Purple Heart,” Lockwood said. “The Military Order of the Purple Heart is the oldest award of the United States government; it dates back to George Washington. It was originally titled ‘Badge of Merit’. It’s the only award that was given at that time to enlisted personnel as well as officers.”
Out of the millions of the people who have served in the armed forces, Lockwood said about six-tenths of one percent have been awarded the Purple Heart.
“And half of those were awarded posthumously. You had to be killed in action to be awarded it, then it was presented to your next of kin or to your family,” he said.
Lockwood said the MOPH helps veterans file benefit claims and appeals, it has volunteers working in veterans homes, VA hospitals and VA clinics, and makes cash donations to projects that benefit veterans. He said MOPH Patriots offer flag cases to bereaved families at military funerals.
Also, local chapters provide food, clothing and hygiene products to needy veterans, and reach out to homeless veterans. He said MOPH publicly recognizes injured first responders, sponsors or participates in events such as drug education that benefits communities, especially the youth, and members give lectures on patriotism upon request. Lockwood said MOPH awards scholarships to members and their families, and presents medals and certificates at ROTC and JROTC ceremonies.
The plaque presented to the city of Neosho reads” “The Military Order of the Purple Heart Special Recognition Award is bestowed with pride to the City of Neosho, Missouri, for your dedication and support in honoring America’s combat wounded veterans by becoming a Purple Heart City.”
“This is a great honor for the City of Neosho, especially considering the fact we have so many combat veterans living in our community, many of whom I’m sure are recipients of the Purple Heart,” said Wes Franklin, public relations and events coordinator, in a prepared statement. “The people who have bled for this country are especially deserving of recognition and we’re elated to be a part of that.”
In other business, the council forwarded an issue that Troy Royer, city manager, said will save the city several hundred thousand dollars.
“The city has recently went through a rating review from Standard and Poor’s; and your A-Rating that you have on your outstanding COPs (certificates of participation) was reconfirmed, with a stable outlook. So we have good information, if you will, as to the anticipated interest rates and savings as a result of knowing very, very close as to what our bond rating will be,” said Jack Dillingham, Piper Jaffray, explaining to council the plans for the sale of just under $4 million of refunding COPs to refinance some of the city’s outstanding lease purchase obligations.”
Dillingham proposes refinancing the city’s 2007A and 2010 taxable series of the COPs, which includes financing for the work on what is now the Civic, and the senior center.
“The average interest rate on the two issues combined that are outstanding is 4.84 percent; and we’re estimating that the true interest cost on the refinancing in todays’ market will be about 2.78 to 2.8 percent,” Dillingham said.
He said the total net debt service savings from 2015-2027 would be about $360,000, with a present value benefit of those future savings of approximately $270,000, or about seven percent of the total principal outstanding.
Dillingham applauded the efforts of Royer and Daphne Pevahouse, finance director, explaining it was their work that led to the A-Rating. Richard Davidson, mayor, explained that the A-rating didn’t happen by accident.
“For a number of years the city was in financial strife, but the A-Rating goes to show how far we’ve come” and Davidson then complimented the staff for making that happen.
Royer said the refinancing will bring tremendous savings.
“That’s been part of our debt management plan since I’ve been here, to try to take advantage of rate breaks we’ve gotten in the last few years,” he said. “We’ve been able to do that with two other issues we’ve had over the last two years, and I just think it’s tremendous that we’re able to do this — and not put any more debt into it, not extend the terms of the payoff — and be able to see these kinds of savings on these debt issuances.”
Royer said the downturn in the economy has been advantageous because the city has been able to take advantage of lower interest rates as the series become callable.
“We’ve done two so far – this will be the third one we’ve done in the third year in a row,” he said. “Each time we have not added anymore debt, just refinancing existing debt, we haven’t extended the terms of the payoff, and saved money all three times.”
Councilman Charles Collinsworth noted that the current council has established a sound fiscal policy and added that he originally ran for the council with the promise, “We’re not going to kick the can any further.”
“The important thing to me is the term has not been extended on this. All of that money is realized as far as the interest improvements,” Collinsworth said.
With council approval of the resolution Tuesday, Dillingham announced that he expected first reading approval of an ordinance authorizing the issuance of the COPs at the second meeting in July, with final passage during council’s first meeting in August.
“That will be the point in time where we will lock in interest rates,” he said.