The first Purple Heart was created by General George Washington in 1782 to be presented to soldiers for “any singularly meritorious action”. Since 1917 it has been awarded to any soldier, in any branch of U.S. service, when they are wounded or killed in action. I happen to believe it should be awarded to every service member because of the wounds they receive to their psyche; the ones that another person can’t see.
I attend the local Veteran’s Writing group in the city where I live. We met yesterday morning and I asked who had a purple heart. Out of the three Viet Nam Vets, One WWII Vet, and three Iraq/Afghanistan Vets, no one had been awarded a Purple Heart for a visible wound to their body. But, I know they all carry the wounds of being deployed. Each one of them has lost a close friend, or wartime “brother” or “sister” during a combat related experience. Each one of them admits to nightmares about something they were ordered to do, something they saw happen, or sometimes about the fact they couldn’t make a difference when they thought it was their duty to do so, or the fact they came home alive when their buddy didn’t.
I made the comment, “I was just a dependent wife,” because in my mind, that’s all I was. I never had to face being shot at in a war zone, or hold my friend’s mortally wounded body while he took his last breath. One of the Vets, Steve, told me after our writing session that if I left my childhood home to be the wife of a military service member, I too was a veteran. If only for the fact I understand what sacrifices they make so the citizens of the United States can enjoy the freedoms they do. I wish I had the capability to make eveyone understand what it does to any past or present military service member when they see someone disrespect the flag of this country.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all for free speech and freedom of expression. I just wish everyone could understand those freedom’s come with a heavy price for our service members. Another point Steve made today is that military personnel are expected to be tough. They go through a rigorous training to make them that way. So when they realize they need help with some of their unseen wounds it is hard for them to admit it and seek help.
I have come to respect every person I’ve met in the Veteran’s Writing group, if not love them. If it were up to me, they would all have a Purple Heart.