Purple Heart memorial honors sacrifices of recipients

By Lynne Conner For Chronicle Media

Vietnam veteran Tony Bove (left) accepts a plaque of recognition from Nick Parenello. (Photos by Lynne Conner/for Chronicle Media)

Area veterans, community members and local dignitaries gathered May 4 to unveil the Purple Heart Memorial honoring military members wounded or killed in action defending the United States against enemy or opposing forces. 

The memorial project, which took almost two years to complete, is located at the LZ Peace Memorial site on the grounds of Midway Village, 6799 Guilford Road in Rockford.  

As a Vietnam veteran and former Huey helicopter crew member, I helped to evacuate many wounded soldiers during the Vietnam War,” said Nick Parnello, founder of the Veterans Honor Society and local veterans’ advocate. Having the Purple Heart memorial gives all wounded veterans and the entire community a place to go and reflect on the great sacrifices these men and women made for our country. 

The LZ Peace Memorial has different areas honoring specific groups of veterans,” Parnello said. The idea for a veterans memorial came about in 1984, and since then, we have added memorials to honor Vietnam veterans, those affected by Agent Orange, the Huey Helicopter and the LZ Glory Memorial where we retire used United States flags, and now the Purple Heart Memorial. It’s a miracle to think of all the support and resources donated through the years.” 

The LZ Peace Memorial is the second-largest Vietnam veterans memorial in the country and the first Agent Orange memorial in the U.S. 

As part of the dedication ceremony, several Purple Heart recipients were honored, including 98-year-

Major Gen. John Borling (standing) with World War II Purple Heart veteran Joe Montalbano

old World War II veteran Joe Montalbano, who was wounded in Germany in 1943.  

Major General John Borling, a Vietnam veteran and prisoner of war, donated one of his Purple Heart medals, which is displayed at the memorial.  

I’m very proud that my Purple Heart was ‘stolen’ from Veterans Memorial Hall in Rockford and now at the LZ Peace Memorial,” Borling joked.  

The only fun element to serving in a strenuous military offensive is the camaraderie that occurs nowhere else in life,” he said. You carry this camaraderie with you for the rest of your life. You carry the reputation of the guys you served with, and you allow them to carry your reputation. You strive hard to earn this honor, which is a compelling experience.” 

Borling also shared his thoughts on characteristics that give the United States its strength.  

We think about and honor our veterans today because we remember the cost of their pledge:  ensuring our freedoms and liberty through mutual responsibility and duty. 

The Smoke Brothers, volunteers who have built and currently maintain the LZ Peace Memorial, were recognized for their work on the design and installation of the Purple Heart Memorial. Plaques were presented to Terry Coffman, Don Allen and Tony Bove,  

Angie White, 95,  was honored as a Gold Star mother of Kenneth White, who died in 1969 at the age of 21 while serving in Vietnam. Additionally, community members and businesses that donated materials and supplies to the Purple Heart Memorial were recognized during the dedication. 

Upcoming events at the LZ Peace Memorial include a Memorial Day program May 27 at 11 AM. For more information on the LZ Peace Memorial, contact Parnello at (815) 968-1040.