Petaluma loves its veterans — the immense Veteran's Day Parade is one of many that honor local servicemen and women. The city's support was officially recognized when Petaluma was named one of America's Purple Heart Cities, an honored bestowed on small towns that go above and beyond for veterans.

Joe Noriel, former president of the Petaluma Museum, commissioned the street signs that proclaim this unique award — one on D Street by Walnut Park and one in Helen Putnam Plaza — from The Military Order of the Purple Heart, which established Petaluma's official designation as a Purple Heart City late last year when the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall came to town.

"I requested the city to become a Purple Heart City in an effort honor the Purple Heart recipients, as well as all those who have served in the military. I don't want their sacrifices ever to be forgotten," said Noriel.

According to Noriel, who started to highlight military service, Petaluma is far from letting the past be forgotten. The town hosts the largest Veteran's Day parade in the area, and Cypress Hill Memorial Park has a ceremony every Memorial Day to honor those who lost their lives in the line of duty. There are also local groups that help the widows and families of veterans with small home renovation and whatever else they may need.

"Petaluma is unique in recognizing veterans on an individual level. We have become a good role model for this nationwide effort. That's the cool thing about this designation — Petaluma is taking the lead in honoring these veterans," said Noriel.

A ceremony will take place on May 23 at 1:30 p.m. in Walnut Park to officially recognize the new signs. City Councilmember Mike Harris will re-read the proclamation declaring Petaluma a Purple Heart City and veterans from World War II to Afghanistan will gather for the occasion.

"This is a really significant designation for Petaluma. It serves as a visual tribute to those who served, a reminder that Petaluma supports its veterans, and recognizes those wounded in action," said Noriel.

(Contact Kaitlin Zitelli at