SCHENECTADY — The Purple Heart is not a medal service members hope or expect to receive, but it is a symbol of their sacrifice, said Thomas Prasenski, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Those wounded while serving in the armed forces will now have their own designated parking space in the heart of downtown Schenectady.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, joined by Prasenski and local veterans, unveiled the space Tuesday afternoon in the lot behind Proctors. It is the fourth such parking space to be installed in Schenectady County over the past year.
“It’s a simple, real-life way to thank our local veterans,” said Santabarbara, who served in the Army Reserve and is a member of the assembly’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
The parking space is in the row nearest Proctors’ rear entrance, in the lot at the corner of Clinton and Smith streets. The space was designated by the Schenectady Metroplex Develpoment Authority, which operates the parking lot.
The pavement between the lines is painted purple, and the space is marked by a sign explaining its purpose. To use the space, cars should have a special license plate denoting the owner as a Purple Heart recipient.
Following brief remarks, Santabarbara, a few veterans and a couple of local Cub Scouts gathered around the space and lifted a tarp to reveal the purple asphalt. A few moments later, Prasenski, a Purple Heart veteran himself, pulled his car into the spot.
“These are simple signs, but they have an intense impact,” said Prasenski, who served three tours of duty in Iraq.
The signs, he said, serve as symbols that the community cares about its veterans. Installing the spaces is a small gesture that can have an impact on a large number of people, including veterans and family members of those who served, said Prasenski, a Massachusetts resident.
About 10 members of AmVets Post 35 in Rotterdam attended Tuesday's event and expressed appreciation for the gesture. Richard Chagnon, who served in the Air Force in Vietnam, said he’d like to see more of the spaces around the region.
There are three other spaces already in place around the county, including one at the Museum of Innovation and Science, one at Rotterdam Town Hall and one at Princetown Town Hall.
Chagnon added that he feels more and more people are finding ways to show appreciation for veterans with each passing year.
“It means a lot,” he said of the parking space. “People who received the Purple Heart, they deserve that extra recognition."