To honor all United States military veterans who were wounded or died fighting for the country they served, the city of Mitchell has become a Purple Heart City.

After Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson read the proclamation Monday that declared Mitchell a Purple Heart City, a packed crowd at City Hall rose to their feet and applauded the Mitchell City Council’s decision to honor the respective group of veterans.

“Whereas the city of Mitchell has great admiration and the utmost gratitude for all the men and women who selflessly served their country and this community in the armed forces. And whereas veterans have paid the high price of freedom by leaving their families and communities and placing themselves in harm's way for the good of all, the city of Mitchell proclaims Mitchell as a Purple Heart City,” Everson said, while reading the proclamation at City Hall. “Most importantly, we will make sure that we never forget the sacrifice of our Purple Heart recipients.”

Among the crowd attending Monday’s City Council meeting were two veterans who were the catalysts for presenting Mitchell with the opportunity to join the list of South Dakota Purple Heart Cities.

Donald Loudner Sr., an Army veteran and national commander of the National American Indian Veterans Association, spends a majority of his time extending his support to Native American veterans and their families. So when the 87-year-old Army veteran watched the Mitchell City Council act on his suggestion to proclaim Mitchell a Purple Heart City, he was deeply proud of the leaders who represent the community he’s called home for the past 69 years.

“I’m really proud of our city leaders for sitting down and accepting this,” Loudner Sr. said. “The whole council didn’t hesitate at all. They supported it, and they supported our great veterans.”

Mitchell now welcomes four 3-by-5 foot reflective signs featuring the Purple Heart logo, and the city chooses where to place them. In addition, Purple Heart parking spaces will be implemented throughout the city.

Ken Teunissen, regional commander for the Purple Heart of South Dakota and North Dakota, is the veteran responsible for making the proclamations official for participating communities.

The idea of the proclamation developed when Loudner Sr. recently learned about the ability for Indian reservations to become Purple Heart Cities. Loudner Sr. has also been an active member of Mitchell’s American Legion for the past 68 years, and he took his the Purple Heart City idea to Teunissen.

“I couldn’t believe Mitchell wasn’t a Purple Heart City yet, because I have always had a lot of support for my service while living here,” Loudner Sr. said. “I thought this would be a perfect way to show all our veterans how proud the city of Mitchell is of them and what they’ve sacrificed.”

Without any hesitation, Teunissen joined Loudner Sr., and together they made a commitment to honor the special group of military veterans in the city of Mitchell. Standing proud with their respective military caps decorated in mementos and pins, the two veterans thanked the City Council and explained the significance of becoming a Purple Heart City.

“I want to congratulate you on this proclamation, and I thank you for supporting all veterans in the Mitchell area,” Teunissen said during the council meeting.

Loudner Sr. is no stranger to the process of helping communities become Purple Heart cities, as the veteran with 33 years of service is responsible for helping add several tribes to the list over the past several years.

In his role as the commander of the National American Indian Veterans Association, Loudner Sr. represents Native American veterans from all federally recognized Indian tribes in the United States. Loudner Sr. said he’s already helped five South Dakota Indian Reservations become Purple Heart Cities, and the Hunkpati tribal member hopes to add all nine of the tribes in the future.

Having established deep roots in Mitchell since moving from his hometown of Fort Thompson in 1950, Loudner Sr. took it upon himself to see the community become a Purple Heart City.

As a veteran, Everson said the decision was easy.

“I was all for the decision to honor this group of veterans, and those who have lost their lives in combat,” Everson said. “We’re very proud to call Mitchell a Purple Heart City now. We joined a group of other cities in South Dakota who love our veterans and country.”

While the city of Mitchell hasn’t finalized mapping out where the signs will be located, Loudner Sr. has some suggestions.

In hopes of attracting veterans driving on one of the most traveled roads in the country, Loudner Sr. said the city has a great opportunity to put its support for veterans on display with placing one of the signs on Interstate 90 near Mitchell.

“With how many people travel on Interstate 90, there is likely a lot of veterans who would see that special sign and hop off the interstate to make a stop at the Veterans Park or the Corn Palace,” Loudner Sr. said.