CHEERS to recognizing members of the U.S. military who’ve been wounded or killed in service to their country — and to the cities and towns in our area committed to recognizing them.

North Andover became the latest “Purple Heart Community” this past week, having decided to honor recipients of the military award in a variety of ways. As staff writer Will Broaddus reports, plaques will be posted throughout the town. North Andover will also officially celebrate “Purple Heart Day” on Saturday, Aug. 7.

That’s significant because it ties to the date that Maj. Gen. George Washington, commander in chief of the Continental Army, issued the order creating the Badge of Military Merit, which was given to only a handful of soldiers at the time. It wasn’t for another 150 years that Gen. Douglas McArthur gave the award to recognize meritorious service. Later, in World War II, it was specifically designated for wounds received in combat.

“I would say that I think anybody that’s been in war carries it with them forever. That’s the best way I can describe it,” David Swarbrick, a former U.S. Army medic and Purple Heart recipient, told Broaddus. For Swarbrick, the award recognized injuries he received while traveling with a patrol in southern Afghanistan that crossed an improved explosive device.

Swarbrick is one of five residents of North Andover known to have received the medal during their military service. Others are Robert Turner, Jack Galvin, Steven Grasso and Patrick Danahy.

They have some well-known and respected company among the more than 2 million recipients of the award: Fighter pilot and test pilot Chuck Yeager received a Purple Heart, as did Pat Tillman, who left his job as a safety for the Arizona Cardinals to serve in the U.S. Army after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Tillman, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in April 2004, received the award posthumously.

A number of other communities in Massachusetts are also committed to honoring recipients of the award — including Boxford, whose designation in 2016 inspired North Andover. Communities from Avon to Franklin, Framingham and Needham have also joined the ranks.

In North Andover, small road signs recently were placed at the town’s borders announcing the designation — one for which all residents of the town should be proud.

CHEERS to efforts, large and small, to clean the Merrimack Valley’s most significant natural resource.

An event organized on Saturday by the Greater Lawrence Community Boating Program and the Merrimack River Watershed Council saw dozens of volunteers paddling around the river in canoes and removing trash from its banks. The group piled up plastics and other refuse into motor boats, which then took the garbage to shore to be hauled away.

Such efforts to pluck refuse from the river may seem small in light of the Merrimack River's great size. But trash picked up a little at a time has a way of adding up; just ask Rocky Morrison, who for years has pulled piles of tires, hypodermic needles and even cars from the river as part of his group, the Clean River Project.

There are much larger efforts underway to clean the river as well.

The region’s congresswoman, U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan, filed a bill to expand an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program that helps communities design and build infrastructure that in turn caps outfall pipes pouring untreated sewage and stormwater into rivers and oceans during heavy rain.

“Each time (combined sewer outfall) events occur, we gamble with exposing our constituents to a toxic stew,” Trahan testified last month at a House Appropriations Committee hearing. Key parts of her plan were later incorporated into an infrastructure bill passed by the House, including $2 billion to remediate combined sewer outfalls and an additional $2.5 billion for water pollution programs.

On Beacon Hill, Gov. Charlie Baker is nudging the Legislature to spend money to address combined sewers as part of a broader plan to spend the state’s $5.3 billion allotment from the American Relief Plan Act.

Ironically, it was just this weekend that the Merrimack River Watershed Council again gave notice that rains had led to CSO events from the treatment systems in Haverhill, Lowell and for the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District.

The notification was a reminder to be cautious about fishing and boating in the river, while at the same time underscoring the critical importance of efforts to clean the Merrimack.

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