CORTLANDT, N.Y. – Cortlandt veterans' advocate William "Willy" Nazario was awarded the Military Order of the Purple Heart's (MOPH) highest honor Aug. 7. At the national MOPH conference, in Scottsdale, Ariz., Nazario was awarded national "Patriot of the Year," an annual honor bestowed one veteran of 43,000 MOPH members nationwide.
Through a secret ballot process, Nazario was selected from among six regional "Patriot of the Year" award winners, as the national, and overall, "Patriot of the Year."
Speaking to Nazario Thursday afternoon, he said, "I looked at my wife, and I tell you, I was ready to start crying, and I looked and my wife and she was in tears. All of the sudden they're calling me up to the podium and there's people calling my name, 'Willy,' 'Willy.'"
Nazario is the Jr. Vice Commander for the Department of New York, MOPH. Members of MOPH are veterans wounded in combat, and who were awarded a Purple Heart.
From Newburgh, N.Y. to Philadelphia, Nazario can be seen advocating for, talking to, and informing residents about veterans. Nazario often speaks to the public at Veterans and Memorial Day ceremonies in Cortlandt, and often rallies for the Veterans Affairs hospital in Montrose.
"He goes to the veterans hospital, he talks to the younger guys, to the older guys, Willie knows everybody in New York," said Region 1 (northeastern United States) Commander, Leon P. Brown.
"I don't even know how many committees I do serve on, I'd have to sit down and put it on paper. Because for me, I get a call from an Assemblyman, or state supervisor, or even the town Supervisor Linda Puglisi, to help on a committee for veterans and I just go do what I have to do," Nazario said.
"One man alone can't do it. I rely on a lot of people to mentor me, and show me the ropes of what I can and can't do. So it's not an I situation, it's a we thing," he said.
"For Willy to get that, that's phenomenal, it doesn't get any better than that," said Brown.
Nazario said in the next year he hopes to move up in the leadership of the MOPH.