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Purple Heart controversy

By Bob Hallmark - bio - email

Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

War can have a dramatic affect on our fighting men and women. In fact, back it May, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said awarding purple hearts to soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder is "clearly something that needs to be looked at."

The original Purple Heart, designated as the Badge of Military Merit, was established by George Washington to be given to those wounded in combat. Many East Texas veterans agree with the Pentagon's decision to not award the medal to soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder.

"It would be like anyone in theatre was given a Bronze Star or Silver Star for being in theatre, it would diminish what those mean to the heros of the past," said Eric Cook, a U.S. Army Desert Storm veteran and Purple Heart winner. "As a battlefield commander, how could I have expressed to the family of a son or daughter that lost limbs and someone standing their without any physical harm to them at all and awarding them the same award."

William Terry was literally blown off the USS Reid during the air attack on Pearl Harbor December 1941. He lost 103 of his shipmates that day.

"We had 2 kamikazes hit our ship simultaneously and it sank within 2 minutes," said William Terry a U.S. Navy WWII veteran and Purple Heart winner. "I don't believe they should, I can sympathize with the people that have the syndrome. I think it would diminish it. You can have that syndrome and never be in a battle."

Eric Cook was awarded the Purple Heart for action in Desert Storm and says there can be no mistake of who should get the award.

"Its what the medals about, it's about those that are wounded during combat," said Cook. "Awarding medals to people with stress disorders I think really diminishes especially our forefathers people that fought tin the great wars."

Some veterans believe as war has changed, so too should our definition of what a wound is.

"Active duty military is stretched very very thin they spend more time in combat theater than ever in our history and exposed to more stress than ever before," said Amos Snow who was in the U.S. Navy from 1981 to 1989. "With post traumatic stress syndrome it might show up for years and I think it does a dis-service to those who are defending our nation that , that is not a recognized combat related wound."

While sympathetic to those who suffer PTSD, veterans say it isn't what the award was created for.

"The purple heart to me means you met the enemy eyeball to eyeball with them," said Terry.

"The Purple Heart is for combat wound just like the medal of honor is for those that go above and beyond the call of duty, we can not start awarding people medals that they're not intended for," said Cook.

As of this past August, over thirty-six thousand service members who have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq have received Purple Hearts. The army's first study of the mental health of troops who fought in Iraq, back in 2004, found that one in eight reported symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.

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