Haverhill Becomes a Purple Heart City, Honors Most Recent Recipient Donald Jarvis

Congresswoman Lori Trahan presents Congressional proclamation in recognition of Donald Jarvis’ “service, courage and sacrifice on behalf of our grateful nation.” (WHAV News photograph.)

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Haverhill formally became a Purple Heart City Saturday morning with the pinning of the city’s newest recipient of the medal, Donald R. Jarvis, and honoring all wounded in service to the country.

While steps toward naming Haverhill a Purple Heart City have been taken since December when then-Veterans of Foreign Wars Lorraine Post 29 Commander Keith Gopsill proposed the idea, Jarvis learned in April he had also been named a recipient. Gopsill, now junior vice commander, told those gathered at Grand Army of the Republic Park that U.S. Army Specialist Jarvis was injured on Feb. 13, 2012 when he was serving as a combat engineer in Afghanistan. That’s when a 200-250-pound improvised explosive device struck his vehicle, causing the vehicle to roll on its side.

“Army Specialist Donald Jarvis had sustained a traumatic brain injury coupled with total hearing loss in his right ear, vertigo, vision problems, dizziness, balance issues. Besides the traumatic brain injury, he also has post traumatic stress disorder and deals with persistent right-side injuries, affecting both his knee and shoulder. Because of Jarvis’ right-side injuries, his service dog Mocha accompanies him on his left side,” Gopsill said.

Massachusetts Veterans Services Secretary Cheryl Lussier Poppe saluted Jarvis and read the official Purple Heart designation. (WHAV News photograph.)

Massachusetts Veterans Services Secretary Cheryl Lussier Poppe saluted Jarvis and read the official Purple Heart designation as Jarvis stood with his parents, Donna and Michael Jarvis.

Congresswoman Lori Trahan presented a Congressional proclamation in recognition of Jarvis’ “service, courage and sacrifice on behalf of our grateful nation.”

“We do so by celebrating a special veteran who was injured in the line of duty. When we think of the Army National Guard’s core values—loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage—it’s hardly a surprise that many of our minds immediately jump to someone like Donald Jarvis who embodies each and every one of those principles in full,” she said.

Beyond his heroism overseas, Trahan noted, Jarvis also demonstrated bravery at home.

“While on duty at the Boston marathon in 2013, he was one of the brave men and women who, rather than run away from the fray, ran directly toward it—to join in the rescue and recovery efforts after the bombing.”

State House citations were delivered by state Sen. Diana DiZoglio and Rep. Leonard Mirra. DiZoglio, noting the possible resurgence of COVID-19 could interrupt future in-person gatherings, made a request of the crowd.

“I’m going to challenge us today to take this opportunity to find a local hero and look them in the eye and tell them, ‘Thank you for your service,’” she said.

Mirra called Jarvis a “tireless worker, working seven-days-a-week helping out veterans. He’s a go-to guy.” He explained how Jarvis found housing for a Vietnam veteran and his wife who lost their home when it was flooded and was condemned.

As if the day’s activities were not enough for Jarvis, he was honored over live video by Impractical Jokers star James “Murr” Murray during a family event later that night. After Murray asked Jarvis’ girlfriend, Alison Riley, to pin the Purple Heart on the recipient, Jarvis dropped to one knee and proposed marriage. She accepted.

Haverhill Veterans Services Director Luis Santiago gave a brief history of the Purple Heart medal, noting the idea came near the end of the American Revolution from General George Washington.

“General Washington then chose to honor them with a silk fabric shaped in a purple heart with the word ‘merit,’” he explained.

Three-time Purple Heart recipient and Vietnam War veteran Gerard Boucher and Korean War veteran Russell V.J. Chaput laid the Purple Heart Wreath as City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan, who served as master of ceremonies, said “We remember all those who have passed on who have received the distinguished honor to receive the Purple Heart medal. Their sacrifice and service will not go unnoticed by the City of Haverhill.” Mayor James J. Fiorentini also read the city’s official proclamation.

Besides Jarvis and Boucher, other Purple Heart recipients honored included Keith Alder, Steven Bird, Charles Grandmaison, Haverhill Patrolman Christopher Landers. Another, Rory McGovern, a 2001 Haverhill High School graduate who served two tours in Iraq and now runs the history department at West Point, was unable to attend.

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