Purple Heart Day Noted Nationally and Locally

Machine gunners Cpl. Charles J. Trask, 22, and Cpl. Jimmy D. Miller, 20, with Security Platoon, Combat Logistics Company 117, Combat Logistics Battalion 7, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Fwd), stand at the position of attention with their Purple Heart awards. Trask, a Kansas City, Mo, native, and Miller, a Huntsville, Ala., native, both said that they have appreciation for their personal protective equipment.

Machine gunners Cpl. Charles J. Trask, 22, and Cpl. Jimmy D. Miller, 20, with Security Platoon, Combat Logistics Company 117, Combat Logistics Battalion 7, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Fwd), stand at the position of attention with their Purple Heart awards. Trask, a Kansas City, Mo, native, and Miller, a Huntsville, Ala., native, both said that they have appreciation for their personal protective equipment.

On August 7, 1782, Gen. George Washington established the Purple Heart medal for all wounded/killed in action according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Celebrations noting the sacrifice by veterans wounded or killed in action are planned throughout the U.S.

Last year, the State of Florida designated August 7 as Purple Heart Day. It’s not an “official” holiday. Government offices remain open. Instead, the legislation stated that the day was set aside to honor veterans who had been wounded or lost their lives and their families.

Polk County Commissioners are taking that celebration a step further by unveiling a new Purple Heart monument at Veterans Memorial Park, 150 Lake Beulah Drive, Lakeland at 6 p.m. on August 7, 2013.

Congressman Daniel Webster is the scheduled keynote speaker. The Military Order of the Purple Heart will host a celebratory dinner reception at the Lakeland Center following the ceremony. It will include a USO-style show and awards ceremony.

The Purple Heart is the United States oldest military decoration that is still given to members of the U.S. military. It started with Gen. George Washington, who issued heart shaped purple pillows to wounded veterans (two of which are still in existence), as well as the Badge of Military Merit for enlisted servicemen injured during meritorious service. The modern Purple Heart was first awarded on May 28, 1932, to 138 World War I veterans at Temple Hill in New Windsor, N.Y., the site of the Continental Army’s first encampment.

It’s estimated that about 1.9 million service members have been awarded the Purple Heart from those who served in the Civil War to today’s wars in the Middle East.


Lying About Military Honors Ruled as Free Speech

Health care wasn’t the only decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday. The high court also ruled as unconstitutional a law that made falsifying claims about one’s military decorations and service a crime.

Known as the “Stolen Valor Act” – it was passed in 2005 and Xavier Alvarez was charged under the law in 2007 when he lied about being a Medal of Honor recipient when serving as a member of a California water board. Howard Altman with the Tampa Tribune reports:

The Stolen Valor law is fatally flawed, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.

“Statutes suppressing or restricting speech must be judged by the sometimes inconvenient principles of the First Amendment,” Kennedy wrote.

Some lawmakers are already vowing to find another way to deter individuals from lying about military service and honors according to a report in the LA Times.

A Soldier’s Son Shares a Moment with His Departed Daddy

No need for 1,000 words with this picture re-published with the permission of the Facebook page Freedom Isn’t Free and consent from the Wise family.

Traci Wise posted this photo and text April 4, 2012:

Found my son sitting having a moment with his daddy (SFC Benjamin Wise) the other day. We lost him January 15 in Afghanistan… we cannot forget about the incredible loss these children must undertake.

According to BlackFive.net, Wise was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal. And he is survived by his wife, Traci; his sons Luke and Ryan; and his daughter Kailen.

An Uncle Lost Too

According to the Arkansas newspaper, Hope Star, SFC Benjamin Wise’s brother, a former Navy SEAL, was killed in Afghanistan at a CIA outpost in December 2009.

Wounded Iraq Veteran Joel Tavera, A Home of His Own

Iraq Veteran Army Sergeant Joel Tavera is receiving a new home from Building Homes for Heroes.

After more than 70 surgeries and nearly four years of hospital care, highly decorated and severely wounded Army Sergeant Joel Tavera and his family on Saturday (Nov. 19) move into a new, four-bedroom, four-bathroom, specially-adapted home thanks to Building Homes for Heroes and William Ryan Homes.

A flag lined procession from James A. Haley VA Medical Center to his new home will welcome Tavera in patriotic fashion.

High-ranking military personnel, local dignitaries, fire-fighters, community members, corporate sponsors, civic organizations, and friends and family will be there to welcome Tavera to his new house.

“We want to thank all the hospital and military personnel, the construction team, and all of our supporters for making Joel’s dream home possible,” said Andrew Pujol, president and founder of Building Homes for Heroes in a press release.

The exterior of the new Tavera home near Tampa.

Tavera was severely injured March 12, 2008 while riding in an armored SUV inside the Tallil Airbase in southeastern Iraq when it was struck by five rockets, according to the press release.  The blasts killed three of his buddies.  Tavera was thought to be dead as well.  He lost sight in both of his eyes, his right leg, four fingers on his left hand, and suffered very serious head trauma and critical burns to 60 percent of his body.

At the time, his parents were told that their son was the second most severely injured soldier to survive the Iraq war. Sergeant Tavera, who received The Purple Heart and Bronze Star, recently underwent a 17-hour surgical procedure.

Multiple Deployments: A New Reality for a New Military

Master Sergeant Nation holds a photo of he 8-year-old daughter - he's been deployed for half of her life.

I wrote a headline earlier this week that the “military continues to pay the price for 9/11.” Not all of that cost is in blood, the price also is exacted in how military families live their lives.

“You deploy for a year, then you come back, you have another honeymoon, then you deploy for another year,” said Master SG Milt Nation, a military policeman who joined the Army in 1989. He joined because he always wanted to be a cop. He’s deployed a lot to Bosnia and Croatia “but those were peacetime deployments.”

Nation has deployed five times since 9-11, three times to Iraq, once to Afghanistan and once to Qatar. He’s currently assigned to U.S. Central Command Headquarters at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base. I met him at the CENTCOM 9/11 ceremony on Friday.

With so many deployments I asked how that affects his family. He pulled out a photograph of his daughter, Alexandria.

Nation has deployed five times since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he is currently assigned to CENTCOM.

“She turned 8 years old, but I’ve only known her four years of her life with all the deployments that I’ve gone on,” Nation said. “I’m just actually balancing it out right now, to know her, to see her and be a dad. So, I have fun.”

“All soldiers know they’re going to have to deploy to one of those two places (Afghanistan or Iraq) and they expect that and the leadership expects that,” Nation said adding that today’s soldier is different, “I joined a long time ago in ’89 for a different reason, for college and for an  experience to be a police officer. But they joined just to help out our country combat on terrorism and I thought that was very honorable, it surprised me just young kids just joined to come over and deploy

He said families learn to deal with deployments taking it day-to-day and technology has been a great help – with the internet and phones – keeping families connected. But he added that it’s important they don’t get distracted.

“Sometimes you’ve got to stay focused about what’s happening with the mission and the families they have to focus what’s going on at school or with the kids,” Nation said. “At the end you’ve got to have that relationship where you come back and try to bond with each other again.”

Nation has two Purple Hearts from his deployments in Iraq and he still loves what he does being a military policeman.

Marine and Veterans’ Advocate Kills Himself

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America are mourning the loss of one of their own.  Member Veteran Clay Hunt took his own life March 31, 2011.  He served two combat tours with the Marines, worked tirelessly for veterans and did international humanitarian work in Haiti and Chile after his military service.
Hunt’s suicide will not be counted as an “official” military suicide. Yet, his loss has the IAVA re-committing itself to suicide prevention.
Hunt’s life and struggles are recounted by IAVA Executive Dir. Paul Rieckhoff in this CNN report.

Here’s a partial description of Clay Hunt’s life by Kimberly Hefling of Associated Press:

WASHINGTON – Handsome and friendly, Clay Hunt so epitomized a vibrant Iraq veteran that he was chosen for a public service announcement reminding veterans that they aren’t alone.

The 28-year-old former Marine corporal earned a Purple Heart after taking a sniper’s bullet in his left wrist. He returned to combat in Afghanistan. Upon his return home, he lobbied for veterans on Capitol Hill, road-biked with wounded veterans and performed humanitarian work in Haiti and Chile.

Then, on March 31, Hunt bolted himself in his Houston apartment and shot himself.

Friends and family say he was wracked with survivor’s guilt, depression and other emotional struggles after combat.

You can read the full article here.

IAVA’s public service announcement: http://iava.org/weve-got-your-back

Team Rubicon: http://teamrubiconusa.org/

Ride 2 Recovery: http://www.ride2recovery.com/

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors: http://www.taps.org

Veterans Crisis Line: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/VeteransVeterans

Crisis Line: 800-273-TALK (8255)

Invisible Injuries Getting Second Look

Several years ago, a VA physician taught me about invisible injuries.” His experience started when he was teaching wounded warriors how to put on prosthetic devices to replace their missing limbs. But many had trouble remembering his instructions from one day to the next.

A closer look uncovered Traumatic Brain Injuries or TBI. The wounded warrior had no physical head wounds, but the impact of the explosive device that took their limbs also jarred their brains.

There are thousands of military members who survived an explosive device with no outward wounds. Their “invisible wounds” or brain injuries got little or no attention and were rarely considered a “wound” worthy of a Purple Heart.

A recent Air Force Times article, posted March 26, 2011, reports that attitudes may be changing. Below is a portion of that story, the full article can be read here.

Air Force Times

The services are engaged in a long overdue effort to clarify rules for the Purple Heart, one of the military’s most coveted medals.

All four branches are studying an Army-led push to declare that troops who suffer concussions as a result of combat actions are entitled to a Purple Heart.

That means, for example, that soldiers in a vehicle that hits a bomb buried in the road qualify if they suffer a concussion.

In theory, the rules already allow for that. But in practice, it’s clear that few such head injuries have earned wounded service members a Purple Heart…

…. This is not just about hanging a ribbon on troops. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli hopes that giving Purple Hearts for invisible injuries will help remove the stigma that often keeps troops from seeking the medical help they need to recover from concussions as well as post-traumatic stress — injuries that too often have been mistaken by commanders as signs of malingering or poor attitude.

If he’s right, perhaps these awards will result in something even more meaningful: helping to reduce the number of suicides, divorces and domestic violence incidents that plague troops coming home from the war zones.

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