Ozarks Life: Honoring Purple Heart heroes

Nixa renews its designation as a Purple Heart City.
Published: Aug. 19, 2022 at 9:37 AM CDT
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NIXA, Mo. (KY3) - Earlier this month, the nation honored our veterans with National Purple Heart Day.

It’s the eighth time the United States has officially paused to recognize our service men and women who were severely wounded, or gave their life, protecting our freedom.

Before this week’s city council meeting, Nixa held a special session.

“You don’t realize how many Purple Heart recipients live in your community until you hold an event like this,” Jarad Giddens, the mayor pro tem for the City of Nixa said. “And it’s good to get them out here and get to meet them and talk to them and hear their stories.”

On Monday, the city renewed its’ Purple Heart City Proclamation. Council welcoming residents, the local Legion Post 434, and some Purple Heart recipients for a ceremony. Included in the presentation was retired U.S. Army Col. Mark Costello.

“Just a sense of pride that people remember you and are thinking about you,” Costello said about the ceremony.

Costello served 31 years in the U.S. Army. From ROTC in college to Iraq, the St. Louis native represented the United States in hurricane-devastated countries and combat zones.

“Securing the freedoms that so many people before us have fought and died to secure for us, you know, somebody’s got to do it,” Costello said. “It’s more of a calling. I think people who join the military and stay in for that long it becomes a calling. I miss it every day.”

But there was a day in 2004, while in Iraq, that would have Costello later receive his Purple Heart.

“I just got caught in being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Costello admits.

Despite being injured in combat, Costello would continue his military career for another seven years before retiring. And in that time, despite living through that scare, his son, Nick joined the Army.

“When he was a little kid,” Costello said, “he’d be out on the playground and on a military post. At 5:30 In the evening, they lowered the flags and the music comes on. The post is at a dead stop. Even the little kids out there playing on the monkey bars all stop and put their hands on a heart or salute. My son was one of those kids.”

Nick was deployed to Afghanistan multiple times. The first time, as a scout platoon leader.

“They fought 253 firefights in 365 days,” Costello said about his son’s platoon. “And he brought every one of them guys back.”

But on another stop in Afghanistan, there was a bombing in Bagram and no one had heard from Nick. father waited 16 hours for a phone call.

“I was in church,” Costello remembers, “and the phone rang. And it was my son. And the just the relief, you know.”

Nick told his dad he had just been released from a hospital after a suicide bomber attacked 30-yards from where he was standing. Mark said the blast picked his son up and threw him. Nick broke both eardrums and had metal shrapnel in his knees.

“He didn’t even know he was wounded,” Mark said about his son. “He was trying to help save other soldiers.”

Mark and Nick Costello are a rare, father and son Purple Heart pair. Today, Nick still serves while his father enjoys being a grandfather. Both of his Mark’s daughters also married into the military.

And that was his message in Nixa this past week, we are all family. We need to say hello to our veterans and their families.

“That’s one thing we miss about being in the military,” Costello said, “is everybody knew everybody. We’re here.”

“A lot of sacrifices to give us the freedoms that we have today,” Giddens added. “And we think it’s very important to celebrate all of these people.”

“There probably aren’t a lot of us around, but we’re still around,” Costello said.

Nick Costello is currently stationed at Fort Riley. Mark’s other message is about far too many veterans coming home and committing suicide. And he hopes, that by working together and getting involved, our veterans can get the help and support they need.

There are more than 900 Purple Heart communities in the United States, honoring the 1.6 million Purple Heart recipients.

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