Hope’s Land of Candy in Island Park celebrated Purple Heart Day Aug. 7 after the coronavirus pandemic prevented the 2020 edition of the event. Joan and Hope Cohen, a mother-daughter team who opened the candy shop seven years ago, partnered with the Museum of American Armor in Bethpage to provide passionate military re-enactors and vehicles for children to pose with and learn from and about.
The military vehicles, which ranged in eras from World War II to Korea and Vietnam, have been a staple of the event for its five years. In years past, the Cohens were even able to have the vehicle that knocked down the gates at the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945. This year’s centerpiece was a tank that saw action during the Vietnam War.
“It’ so exciting to be open and to be able to still do this for the community during this time when everybody needs something fun to look forward to,” Hope Cohen said.
Purple Heart Day commemorates the oldest American military decoration, which was created by George Washington on August 7, 1782. Since 1932, the date has been used to honor the recipients, who have been wounded or killed in combat.
“We feel like Purple Heart Day isn’t as known as it should be,” Hope Cohen said. “And so, we wanted to honor the veterans that fought for us so we have the freedom to do this.” As part of the celebration, the Cohens offer free refreshments to all Purple Heart recipients and discounts to all military members. Additionally, the event acts as a fundraiser for the Purple Heart Foundation and Museum of American Armor.
When older veterans and residents walk into the store, they might also be hit by a wave of nostalgia, as the interior of Hope’s resembles an old-time candy shop, complete with a 1920s register and wooden shelves of candies, both new and old. Adding to the throwback atmosphere, a harmonica troupe performed as children got to hop into the military vehicles and see the interiors.
“Purple Heart Day comes around the time of our [shop’s] anniversary, and we didn’t want to a celebration just to celebrate us,” Joan Cohen said. The Cohens got the idea ahead of the shop’s second anniversary in 2015, as Joan Cohen had a contact at the Museum of American Armor with whom she worked to arrange the military theme.
Joe Martello, a Marine corporal and Vietnam War Purple Heart recipient, attended and spoke about his time in the service. Martello received two Purple Hearts when he was wounded in 1968 and 1969. “This wouldn’t happen without this lovely young lady here, [Joan],” Martello said. “We appreciate her, and we appreciate everyone who did their time. And for those of you who didn’t make it home, we love and miss you all.”