Sgt. 1st Class Awarded Replacement Purple Heart
Brig. Gen. Anthony Stanich awards retired Sgt. 1st Class Lawrence Crucil a replacement Purple Heart on the Kups Purple Heart Cruise in Chicago.

More than 400 veterans enjoyed a five-hour cruise on Lake Michigan Tuesday as the historic annual Kups Purple Heart Cruise returned to Chicago's Navy Pier after a 12-year pause. Founded by former Chicago columnist Irv Kupcinet in 1945 to honor veterans returning from World War II, the Kups Cruise was a Chicago institution for 50 years, until Kupcinet retired it in 1995. Kupcinet's grandson, David Kupcinet, resumed the cruise this year to thank veterans returning from Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.

"The cruise is hugely important," said Kupcinet. "When my grandfather started it in 1945, he felt the same way we feel now. Which is, that the veterans of any country are one of its most important assets, but that everybody at home has to be willing to do their part, as well, and step up and care for the troops as they return," he said.

In a surprise special ceremony before the cruise, Brig. Gen. Anthony Stanich, Ill. National Guard, awarded a replacement Purple Heart to retired Korean War veteran Army Sgt. 1st Class Lawrence Crucil, who had misplaced the original medal.

"It was a heck of surprise," said Crucil. "To be called out like that, and awarded that medal 50 years later, I was blown away. It was even more exciting than getting it the first time, because it was in front of so many people," he said.

Stanich said he felt honored to attend the ceremony. "It was outstanding, that we're doing this for our wounded veterans," he said. "And hopefully it continues. Especially for the Vietnam veterans, being one myself, who we all know how they were greeted when they first returned home. It's really wonderful to see how our returning Soldiers today are being treated versus how it was then," he added.

The 2007 Kups Purple Heart Cruise is sponsored by the Kup's Purple Heart Foundation, with assistance from the USO of Illinois and the U.S. Army, Navy and Coast Guard. Honorary Chairmen of the cruise included Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Sen. Barack Obama and Ill. Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn, who regularly supports Army initiatives.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16