Purple heart questions have me singing the blues
© David Volk

The state where I live has a clever way of letting people know the likelihood of striking it rich by playing the lottery.

"Odds of winning are one in 1,256,354," the ads say as they mention the odds of the week.  

Then, for humor's sake the ads add, "Odds substantially higher if you do not play."

The addition always makes me laugh because I know they may be joking, but I'm the guy they're talking to. I want to win the million dollars, but I don't want to actually go out and buy the ticket. And if I don't buy the ticket, I won't win.

Purple hearts work that way, too. They don't come free, they aren't in a two bit box of Cracker Jack and they aren't sold for a buck at your local convenience store. No, you have to pay for them. With your own blood. Because the only way to get the award given to a member of the military who is wounded or killed in battle is to go out on the battlefield and get wounded or killed. And the only way to go out on the battlefield is to show up and actually report for duty.

With the possible exception of the occasional wise guy who decides to shoot his foot to stay off the battlefield, recipients of the honor generally don't get to accept the circumstances under which earn the award. It might come from storming the beach at Normandy, it could be from a fire fight in Vietnam or even a flesh wound sustained during the Gulf War. It really doesn't matter how deep the wound is because the award doesn't honor injury, it honors the effort. It honors people who showed up on numerous battlefields numerous times and might have escaped getting injured many times before, but weren't so lucky that one time. (Or in Kerry's case those three times.)

For people who profess to be pro-military to cheapen a hard-earned medal and the military that awards it by questioning how deep the person's wound in not only is disgusting, it also undermines the efforts of our troops in the field. After all, why should they bother to give their all and risk their own lives knowing that some day after they receive a purple heart, people who don't like them will question whether their injuries merited such an award? Why should they bother to put the time in when they know if they exercise their first amendment rights and ask unpopular questions, they will be branded unpatriotic and not worthy of their uniform? Why should they bother to fight when people the criticisms of people who didn't even bother to show up for duty are given such weight?

Of course, it could be a case of jealousy.

Kerry earned his first purple heart by getting shrapnel in his arm when he stuck it out to pull a fellow navy man out of the water and into safety amidst enemy fire at great personal risk and pain to himself.

Bush also showed such bravery and disregard to his own safety the same day at a National Guard drill by plunging his arm into icy cold water and rescuing a beer that had been left stranded floating in an open cooler with no one there to protect it.

The same year, Bush risked life and limb on an evening reconnaissance mission in the cold and rain when he went to the local 7-11 to liberate chips and dips when he and his troops ran out of provisions during half time at the Super Bowl.

One can only hope the record is set straight soon and that Bush will receive the medal he so richly deserves. Because he sure didn't have the mettle he needed when it really counted and now he and his friends are trying to change history to make dishonor look like honor and honorable service to be dishonorable.