Common Myths About The Purple Heart Medal
(This Information Site is Continually Updated.)
Click here for the official Purple Heart Issue Regulations
Not true. The PH medal can legally be authorized to only three groups of personnel:
Not true. See Option Three in the above regulation.
Not true. The amount/level/degree of a persons wound or injury is never a factor. When establishing the PH General George Washington made it absolutely clear that awarding/authorizing officers were not permitted to make personal judgments based on how more or less serious a wound or injury appeared, and that being wounded in combat -- by any degree -- was a true distinction of "military merit". Since General Washington's original decision no president, military or Congressional authority has found it necessary to change the PH's issue regulation policy . (See Also, Footnote 1; And the U.S. Army's history of the Purple Heart: http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/reference/PurHrt.htm.)
True. Any enemy inflicted wound, whether or not there is observable blood loss, merits the Purple Heart. (Invisible) brain injury caused by an enemy-inflicted concussion or blow, such as an IED explosin, that renders the serviceperson even temporarily incapacitated is a wound even though brain trauma is not is not immediately visible to the eye. Battlefield medics can, however, conduct a simple eye exam using a flashlight to determine optical (pupil dialation) response. Pupils that do not contract in response to light stimulus is indicative of a temporary or permanent brain injury/wound. More extensive brain injury/wound tests can be conducted by base hospital personnel.
Not true. Accidental shootings that do not involve an engagement with an enemy are workplace accidents.
Not true. "Fraggings" are criminal incidents. They are neither enemy nor friendly fire related even if the motivation for the 'fragging' was due to a real-time or previous enemy-related situation.
Not true. Any non-bleeding enemy inflicted or friendly fire wound or injury, such as electrical, gas, concussion, suffocation, etc., are PH-eligible.
Not true. The majority of (but not necessarily all) combat deaths are automatically awarded the PH. Enemy or FF injured/wounded veterans who did not receive the PH prior to their discharge may, if eligible, successfully petition their service department's Awards Branch for post-service award to a discharged veteran. The Military Records Center can only issue authorization for awards that were negligently not recorded on the Report of Separation, or those awards "automatically" authorized by 'class-action' to a specified classification of personnel via Executive Order (such as the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal(s), etc. (See URL: http:/www.americanwarlibrary.com/htom.htm).
Please note that the each of the four (five during wartime) Service Branches (USA, USAF, USCG, USMC, USN) have their own Awards Branch. The Awards Branch is the ONLY legal agency that can authorize a post-service military award. Only in specific cases of a previously rejected application or recommendation can a Review Board authorize a post-service medal to a discharged veteran.
Not true. There is only one medal in the United States military inventory that allows a serviceperson to recommend him/herself. That medal is the Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal. No serviceperson can recommend themself (now or any time in the past) for the PH or any other medal.
Not true. Other than being wounded or injured by enemy or friendly fire, the serviceperson's wound/injury must be treated by a military or military certified medical person at the time or shortly after injury. "Shortly" is defined as the first possible OR available opportunity while currently assigned in the war theater.
Not true. A written or oral After Action report must either be personally authored OR personally verified/approved by the senior military person on the scene at the time of the incident. If the recipient was the most senior ranking person on the scene the awarding officer must ascertain confirmation from all other personnel (regardless of their rank) on the scene at the time of occurrence.
Not true. Citations are very rarely written for PH awards.
Not true. Although Display Certificates are authorized, the military has never been obligated/required by Congress to issue a display certificate. Neither is the PH recipient due a display certificate. Display certificates issued to active duty personnel occurs only when the local command possesses certificates to issue. (Prior to 1995 the government was not required to issue a full-sized medal.) The only military display certificate required by Congress for mandatory issue is Medal of Honor. (For info on the PH replacement recognition, see this page: http://www.amervets.com/replacement/ph.htm)
Not true. The only military medal list authorized/budgeted by Congress is Medal of Honor. The only service branch that maintains a "tape" of its PH recipients is the Marine Corps (due to the small size of the Corps). However, Marine Corps 'tapes' of PH recipients is neither required by Congress to be publicly accessible nor utilizable to confirm authorization or award eligibility.) Marine Corps 'tapes' are used solely for internal audit purposes. The Army, Air Forces, Navy and Coast Guard does not maintain a historic list of its PH recipients.
Not true. Military medals are issued only one time. If a PH medal was never issued ONLY the recipient or a direct family member [if the recipient is infirm or deceased] may apply for a first-time issue. Replacement medals can by purchased from any military medal retailer. Only those replacement medals sold by retailers that meet official United States government specifications may/must state on their packaging that they are "Official" medals.
Not true. The only metallic entity manufactured by the United States government for public distribution are currency coins. Military medals, like military weapons and other military equipment, are manufactured by private industry. See the above reference for information on the 'officiality' of U.S. military medals.
Not true. Military medals and information from veteran's military files can legally be requested only from the following individuals that are related to active military personnel (this includes Reservists and Guardspeople) and veterans: Parents, siblings, children. However, under the Freedom of Information Act other relatives are not completely excluded from applying for information if there are no other living relatives in the above-listed category (parents, siblings, children.)
Not true. (House of) Representatives and Senators should not be asked to assist in obtaining record information or medals unless their assistance is absolutely necessary in cases of disputes, irregularity, discrimination, or lack of response from the Records Center (which very rarely occurs. Although the Records Center in St. Louis MO is perpetually inundated with an overload of requests for medals or information, the Military Records Center has a long history of excellent responsiveness in fulfilling requests just as quickly as its limited budget and manpower availability [during wartime] permits.) Although some elected officials may offer themselves as advocates for record or medal retrieval during re-election seasons, authorized information or medal applicants can apply themselves using form SF-180. See URL: http:/www.americanwarlibrary.com/htomr.htm. (House of) Representatives and Senators are best utilized for issues that cannot be accomplished after all other efforts have failed.
Not true. Although many Local, State and Federal agencies do provide bonus job application "points" to employment applicants. There is no federal law requiring private employers to give hiring preference to PH recipients.
Not true. The only private employers who can ask to look at your DD-214 or Report of Separation are those whose job applications specifically ask you if you served in the military AND/OR if you have a service connected disability, Private employers that do not perform federal contract work may not legally retain a copy of your DD-214 in your employment file. However, private employers whose job applications do not ask if you served in the military are permitted to examine a copy of your DD-214 if you have responded or stated either orally or in your written resume that you served in the military.
True. However, it is a punishable federal offense to possess any military medal or medal certificate that you fraudulently claim you are the official recipient of. Anyone who falsely misrepresents or claims they are the legal recipient of a United States or foreign military medal or certificate is subject to severe prosecution and penalty. Family members and collectors may legally possess military medals and certificates authorized or awarded to legal recipients. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is authorized by Congress to investigate any case of military medal misrepresentation. The United States Attorneys Office under the United States Justice Department is authorized by Congress to prosecute cases of military medal defalcation to the fullest extent of current law.
Not true. Only in very rare cases are medals officially issued with the engraved name of the recipient. However, recipients and family members are authorized to have medals engraved with the name of the legally authorized recipient. Medals currently issued by the Military Records Center and military units are not engraved except in very rare instances. Medal applicants may not, repeat not, request an engraved medal from the Records Center or any military branch. Engraving, when done, is done only rarely by those military commands that both possess engraving equipment and available personnel to perform the task.
Not true. Lost medals (or any other military item) remains the permanent property of the United States government. Found items should be mailed along with a letter identifying the finder and the location where the item was found to the following address:
The Secretary of Defense
Washington DC 20301
Not true. Found items should be mailed with a report to the address above.
No. United States military medals hold an exalted place in our society. The military recipient of that medal gave part of him or herself. A good citizen should feel patriotic in restoring a lost item to a recipient. Whenever you see a pre-owned military medal being sold you should ask the seller to please return the medal to the Secretary of Defense at the address listed above.
Not true. War related PTSD is a psychological-rooted condition that may or may not manifest physical symptoms based on a singular or multiple incidents resulting from real, imagined, or combination of real and imagined memories that an individual claims or believes they are unable (or unwilling) to resolve unless perpetual therapeutic and/or financial assistance is provided them. However, regardless of any physical ailments or manifestations associated with war-related PTSD this psychologically based condition is neither a wound nor injury caused by enemy or friendly fire. PTSD is a negative by-product of a human memory phenomenon that occurs normally but can some times be attached by the individual to an unwanted memory or series of conscious or unconscious memories that if obsessed can lead to physical symptoms such as irritability, sleeplessness, bedwetting, aberrant, unsociable or anti-social behavior, etc. PTSD is strictly an individual condition that is not shared by everyone experiencing the same or similar wartime incidents. That is, if all members of a platoon are shot at the same time by an enemy they will all suffer gunshot wounds. But if all members of a platoon experience a psychologically upsetting situation not all will later claim symptoms typically diagnosed as PTSD. Lastly, the physical symptoms claimed by PTSD petitioners were never medically certified at the time the claimant asserts precipitated them. Both the Department of Defense (DOD) and Congress have relied on objective scientific studies to conclude that PTSD is neither an enemy or friendly fire inflicted wound or injury. The Department of Veterans Affairs provides treatment and/or compensation for diagnosed cases of PTSD. No United States military medal has ever been established by DOD or Congress for post-service psychological based symptomatic disorders. Previous petitions by veterans or veterans groups to make this condition eligible for a new or existing medal were not approved.
Not true. AO was a herbicide used to defoliate dense vegetation to deny secluded transportation and refuge to the enemy. AO was never intended to be used, nor used, as an anti-personnel weapon. Advocates seeking to have their AO-related physical ailments judged as "wounds or injuries of war" have irresponsibly and incorrectly subscribed (often deliberately) to the myth that all adverse physical conditions that can be directly attributed to a theater of war are eligible for the PH. Both the Department of Defense and Congress have relied on objective scientific studies to conclude that AO is neither an enemy or friendly fire inflicted wound or injury. The Department of Veterans Affairs provides treatment and/or compensation for diagnosed cases of herbicide-related toxicity. No United States military medal has ever been established by DOD or Congress for physical conditions that may be associated with herbicide contact. Previous petitions by veterans or veterans groups to make this condition eligible for a new or existing medal were not approved.
True if the soldier was firing his weapon at an enemy. Not true if the soldier did not fire his weapon at the enemy.
Not true. When firing his weapon at the enemy it is the projectile (bullet, missile, etc) and not the rifle or gun butt that is the soldier's instrument intended to negate the success of an enemy. Soldiers are trained to prevent avoidable recoil injuries. Soldiers cannot be trained to avoid bullet ricochets. See the above regulation.
Not true in a majority of cases. This type of injury is a generally classified as a 'workplace accident'. However, there are some minor circumstances depending on an enemy-involved incident that may render the injured eligible for the PH.
True in all cases.
True. Example: An enemy or friendly (fire) missile explosion during an egagement with the enemy knocks down a tree that falls on the soldier causing injury.
Not true. The Merchant Marine is a civilian agency. The Mariners Medal is the Merchant Marine's equivalent to the military Purple Heart.
Additional topics will be added as they are received.
a. The original Purple Heart, designated as the Badge of Military Merit, was established by General George Washington by order from his headquarters at Newburgh, New York, August 7, 1782. The writings of General Washington quoted in part:
"The General ever desirous to cherish a virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species of Military Merit, directs that whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings over the left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding. Not only instances of unusual gallantry, but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with a due reward".
b. So far as the known surviving records show, this honor badge was granted to only three men, all of them noncommissioned officers: Sergeant Daniel Bissell of the 2d Connecticut Regiment of the Continental Line; Sergeant William Brown of the 5th Connecticut Regiment of the Continental Line, and Sergeant Elijah Churchill of the 2d Continental Dragoons, which was also a Connecticut Regiment. The original Purple Heart depicted on the first page is a copy of the badge awarded to Sergeant Elijah Churchill and is now owned by the New Windsor Cantonment, National Temple Hill Association, PO Box 525, Vails Gate, NY 12584. The only other known original badge is the badge awarded to Sergeant William Brown and is in the possession of The Society of the Cincinnati, New Hampshire Branch but differs in design by not having any lettering embroidered on the heart and the leaves are at the top only with a larger spray of leaves at the base.
c. Subsequent to the Revolution, the Order of the Purple Heart had fallen into disuse and no further awards were made. By Order of the President of the United States, the Purple Heart was revived on the 200th Anniversary of George Washington's birth, out of respect to his memory and military achievements, by War Department General Orders No. 3, dated 22 February 1932. The criteria was announced in War Department Circular dated 22 February 1932 and authorized award to soldiers, upon their request, who had been awarded the Meritorious Service Citation Certificate or were authorized to wear wound chevrons subsequent to 5 April 1917.
d. During the early period of World War II (7 Dec 41 to 22 Sep 43), the Purple Heart was awarded both for wounds received in action against the enemy and for meritorious performance of duty. With the establishment of the Legion of Merit, by an Act of Congress, the practice of awarding the Purple Heart for meritorious service was discontinued. By Executive Order 9277, dated 3 December 1942, the decoration was extended to be applicable to all services and the order required that regulations of the Services be uniform in application as far as practicable. This executive order also authorized award only for wounds received.
e. Executive Order 10409, dated 12 February 1952, revised authorizations to include the Service Secretaries subject to approval of the Secretary of Defense. Executive Order 11016, dated 25 April 1962, included provisions for posthumous award of the Purple Heart. Executive Order 12464, dated 23 February 1984, authorized award of the Purple Heart as a result of terrorist attacks or while serving as part of a peacekeeping force subsequent to 28 March 1973.
f. The Senate approved an amendment to the 1985 Defense Authorization Bill on 13 June 1985, which changed the precedent from immediately above the Good Conduct Medal to immediately above the Meritorious Service Medals. Public Law 99-145 authorized the award for wounds received as a result of "friendly fire". Public Law 104-106 expanded the eligibility date, authorizing award of the Purple Heart to a former prisoner of war who was wounded before 25 April 1962.
g. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year1998 (Public Law 105-85) changed the criteria to delete authorization for award of the Purple Heart Medal to any civilian national of the United States while serving under competent authority in any capacity with the Armed Forces. This change was effective 18 May 1998.
h. Order of precedence and wear of decorations is contained in Army Regulation 670-1. Policy for awards, approving authority, supply, and issue of decorations is contained in AR 600-8-22.
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