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Purple Heart Parking Project Underway; Elm Grove VFW Asks More Businesses To Participate

photo by: Shelley Hanson

Wally McMasters, a Vietnam War veteran and commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4442 in Elm Grove, tells members of the Kiwanis Club of Wheeling about his Purple Heart Parking Project during the club’s noon lunchtime meeting at River City Restaurant on Thursday.

A program to get Purple Heart recipient parking spots designated at local businesses was inspired by a veteran that Wally McMasters saw at Walmart.

McMasters, a Vietnam War veteran and commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4442 in Elm Grove, said he was walking through the parking lot when he noticed a fellow veteran with a Purple Heart license plate on his vehicle. He told his story to the Kiwanis Club of Wheeling on Thursday during their noon lunchtime meeting held at River City Restaurant.

“I said, ‘Hey old timer, why don’t you park in a handicapped spot?'” McMasters said. “He said, ‘I ain’t handicapped, I’m just old.'”

That short conversation gave McMasters a chuckle, but it also sparked an idea – that businesses, like Walmart and others, could have one or two spots reserved just for veterans who received a Purple Heart during their time of service in the military. Purple Hearts are given to veterans who were injured during battle.

The VFW found a sign design it liked online and started pitching the idea to local businesses. The VFW provides the sign and the business puts in the post to place it on. McMasters said there are several businesses that have already posted the signs and few others who have committed to doing so.

He’s hoping more will want to take part.

“It’s the least we can do for them,” McMasters said of the veterans.

The signs state “Reserved, Combat Wounded” with a picture of the Purple Heart medal in the middle. He noted the signage is not enforceable, but will hopefully provide a space a little closer to businesses for the veterans.

McMasters, who noted he is not a Purple Heart recipient himself, said there are younger veterans who are recipients but don’t have license plates saying so – and that’s OK.

“Some of the younger vets don’t want the limelight so we have to be sensitive to them,” he said.

Business owners who would like to participate in the Purple Heart Parking Project can call McMasters at 606-793-3004 or email him at mccmastersg@bellsouth.net.

He hopes the program goes nationwide some day. In the meantime the VFW Post 4442 will let its members know where the signs are located.

McMasters, 73, said he was a Navy Seabee and served two tours of duty in Vietnam. After he came back home he worked in the coal mines. Eventually he became a mine inspector. His last assignment with the Mine Safety and Health Administration was investigating the Upper Big Branch mine explosion near Beckley in 2010. After retiring from inspecting, he became a mine consultant. He moved to Wheeling in 2018 and now lives in Triadelphia. He loves spending time with his two granddaughters.

In addition to being commander of the VFW in Elm Grove, he is also a member of the Valley Grove Volunteer Fire Department board of directors.

Meanwhile, the Kiwanis Club is gearing up for its annual Golfless Scramble, set for 1 p.m. Aug. 27 at Wheeling Park’s golf course. Member Chris Wilson said they are hoping to have at least 10-12 teams participate. To make the scramble fun and stressless, participants use different tools to hit the ball including baseball bats, lacrosse sticks, tennis rackets, hockey sticks and racquetball rackets. Proceeds from the event benefit the House of the Carpenter’s Weekend Backpack Feeding Program. A team of four costs $140; lunch is provided. For more information or to register, call Wilson at 304-639-6902 or Doug Pell at 304-312-4031.

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