ATLANTA – Mercer University will be recognized as Georgia's first Purple Heart University in a ceremony on April 8, 11 a.m., in the second-floor auditorium of the Atlanta Administration and Conference Center on the Cecil B. Day Graduate and Professional Campus.
The designation signifies the University's recognition and honor of veterans who have been awarded the Purple Heart, which was created by George Washington to be bestowed upon those wounded or killed in combat serving our country.
The country's first Purple Heart University was designated in April 2013, and there are currently 19 such institutions nationwide.
The ceremony, hosted by Mercer President William D. Underwood, will pay special tribute to the contributions and sacrifices of our nation's military members and Purple Heart recipients, veterans and their families.
Special guests will include Purple Heart recipient and retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 James Blaylock, service foundation director and a past national commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH); Purple Heart recipient and retired Col. Douglas J. Middleton, commander of MOPH Department of Georgia; Purple Heart recipient and retired Sgt. Maj. Robert Nelson, commander of MOPH Atlanta Chapter; as well as representatives from veterans service and support organizations from across the state.
"For over 200 years, military men and women, and especially our Purple Heart recipients, have sacrificed personal comfort and safety to answer a higher calling, and our nation has relied on their courage, strength, sacrifice and selfless service," said retired Lt. Col. Scott Mahone, assistant director of regional academic center operations at Mercer.
"Being designated as a Purple Heart University is a profound honor and testimony to Mercer's unwavering support and commitment to our veterans, their families and military-connected students still serving on reserve or active duty both here and around the world. As a 27-year Army veteran, I am very proud to now serve at Mercer University."
Mercer has worked extensively to better assist military-connected prospective students through the enrollment process for traditional, non-traditional and graduate programs. These efforts resulted in the University being named a Military Friendly School, a designation reserved for the top 15 percent of universities and technical schools in the country that are doing the most to embrace military service members, veterans and family members as students and ensure their success on campus.
University leadership formally endorsed and complied with Presidential Executive Order 13607, "Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Servicing Military Members, Veterans, Spouses and Other Family Members." Additionally, Mercer formally entered into partnership with "Operation Educate the Educators," an initiative of the Military Children Education Coalition (MCEC) and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). As a result, Mercer was recognized by Dr. Jill Biden, spouse of Vice President Joe Biden, among the first 100 universities to endorse guiding principles for preparing educators to meet the needs of military-connected students.
Mercer also participates in the Department of Veterans Affairs Yellow Ribbon Program, which offers significant financial offsets and provides affordable private education to veterans. The University's Office of Enrollment Management is an active participant in Georgia Army National Guard Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP) events. YRRP is a Department of Defense effort to assist National Guard and Reserve service members and their families in obtaining personalized information on health care, education, training opportunities, financial services and other entitlements.
In recent years, entities across the country have sought out the Purple Heart designation from MOPH. The state of Georgia and city of Atlanta are among 96 designated entities statewide, which is the second most of any state in the U.S.
"Those of us who are recipients of the Purple Heart Medal are highly honored by this ceremony," said Middleton. "By this proclamation, a university honors all veterans and shows how it values and appreciates their service to our great nation. This shows that Mercer University is truly veteran friendly and a great place for a veteran to secure a college education."
The Military Order of the Purple Heart was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all who have received the decoration. Composed exclusively of Purple Heart recipients, it is the only veterans service organization made up strictly of combat veterans.
Funds for welfare, rehabilitation and service work carried out by the organization are derived through the collection of used household items, the operation of thrift stores, the donation of automobiles and the annual distribution of the Purple Heart Viola.
There are eight chapters of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and some 1,200 recipients of the Purple Heart in Georgia. For more information, visit www.purpleheart.org.