St. Mary’s County has become the first municipality in Maryland to designate parking spots for veterans injured on the battlefield. SSGT Justin Skotnicki (Ret.) and Jason Link, co-founders of the Purple Heart Initiative, joined the Commissioners of St. Mary’s County to debut the first Purple Heart parking spot on the Governmental Center campus in Leonardtown.

The commissioners unanimously approved a resolution on July 22 designating the spots for Purple Heart recipients. Approximately 50 signs will be installed at various locations around the county, such as county office buildings, museums and parks. All spaces will be located adjacent to existing handicapped parking space(s). The total cost to install the signs will be $2,000. Purple Heart Parking donated the signs.

Skotnicki, a two time Purple Heart recipient, says “we wanted to recognize Purple Heart recipients. I think designating parking spots for those injured while serving their country is an ideal way of honoring them.”

Commissioner Dan Morris (2nd District), a Vietnam Veteran, says the plan was a great way to honor those who have been wounded in action. “I wholeheartedly support the concept. It’s a great idea and I thank Purple Heart Parking for stepping forward and doing the right thing.”

Purple Heart recipient Clifford Blend of St. Mary’s County watched the ceremony Tuesday marking the first sign outside the Chesapeake Building. The Marine Corps veteran received his Purple Heart for actions at the iconic World War II battle at Iwo Jima in 1945.

Blend said of the Purple Heart Parking, “I think it is a great program. I think it will work.”

Blend said his biggest concern is that many people misunderstand what the Purple Heart is for. It is awarded in the name of the President to those wounded or killed while serving with the U.S. military, on or after April 5, 1917. Blend noted that those lucky enough to get quick medical attention after being wounded in action may not be disabled and eligible for disabled parking.

Blend observed that Secretary of State John Kerry, with whom he served during the Korean War, received five Purple Hearts for his bravery, yet is not disabled.