Purple Heart for PTSD

Interested in what my fellow Vets think of this.


The bridge between the mind and body is closing, gentlemen. Observe this article if you will, and vote if you are inclined:

For every solder killed or physically wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan, some 10 others come home psychically scarred. The Pentagon has diagnosed roughly 40,000 troops with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since 2003, and tens of thousands of others are dealing with it on their own or ultimately will be diagnosed. With the war taking such a heavy psychological toll, some inside the military are starting to ask if men and women who become mentally injured in the service of their country deserve the Purple Heart. To some traditionalists, the idea is absurd on its face, but it is not a theoretical debate —the Pentagon is now weighing a change in policy that would make PTSD, in a term only the military could invent, a "qualifying wound" for the medal.

The Purple Heart, created by General George Washington in 1782, has historically been limited to those physically wounded or killed in combat. The Army classifies PTSD as an illness, not an injury, which means it doesn't qualify for the honor. But John Fortunato, an Army psychologist at Fort Bliss, Texas, argued in early May that PTSD affects soldiers by physically damaging their brains, making the condition no different than conventional wounds. Soldiers with PTSD often have suffered as much "as anybody with a traumatic brain injury, as anybody with a shrapnel wound," he said. Their ineligibility for a Purple Heart "says this is the wound that isn't worthy, and it is." Advocates of the change like Fortunato believe it would help encourage soldiers with symptoms of PTSD, many of whom are afraid of being blacklisted and having their chances for promotion limited, seek out the help they need.

The suggestion has garnered high-level Pentagon attention. "It's an interesting idea," Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently noted. "I think it is clearly something that needs to be looked at." The Defense Department's awards advisory group, which previously ruled that PTSD doesn't merit a Purple Heart, is now studying the issue again.

The traditional veterans' groups don't want the rules loosened. "We vehemently disagree" that PTSD is a physical wound that warrants a Purple Heart, says Joseph Palagyi, the national adjutant of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, who earned the medal in Vietnam on June 2, 1968. "We feel that the purity of the medal must be maintained." The American Legion agrees. "Unless PTSD crosses the line and is shown to be an injury—with a direct relationship to the enemy—we support the current policy," says Phil Riley of the Legion. Michael Wysong, the director of national security issues for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, likens PTSD to the Gulf War syndrome that afflicted troops following that 1991 war. "Not to diminish the illness or effects of PTSD," he says, "but it is the VFW's belief that awarding the Purple Heart for PTSD is not consistent with the original purpose and would denigrate the medal."

The Army surgeon general didn't venture into this minefield when TIME offered him the opportunity. "They haven't asked my opinion about it," Lieutenant General Eric Schoomaker said May 27 of the Pentagon panel reviewing the question. When pressed on the question—shouldn't the Army's top doc have an opinion on whether or not PTSD warrants a Purple Heart?— he punted. "Whether or not a medal should be awarded is not in my purview," he said. "The senior operational commander in the Army needs to decide that." It's evidence of the sensitivity of the issue that even the army's senior doctor suggests a second opinion.

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As a Combat wounded Veteran who wears his Purple Heart proudly and also 100% disabled veteran classified with 100% PTSD my response as with most Veterans I know is "NO". I do not want to see the Purple Heart cheapened by giving it out to anyone and everyone. All the funding for an action like this could be put to better use treating our Veterans. Do you seriously believe providing someone a Purple Heart for PTSD is going to make him better? "NO"

Let us not destroy the value of our oldest enlisted medal "The Purple Heart"

I'd have to agree with Mike, the Purple Heart was the first medal issued to the military and the original purpose was (and is) for physical combat injuries inflicted by an armed enemy. If you start issuing the Purple Heart for PTSD, then you'd have to issue the Purple Heart for Agent Orange, then you'd end up issuing the Purple Heart for any injury or accident in a combat zone. If you want to have a medal for all accidents and injuries that occur in a combat zone, no problem, but don't call it the Purple Heart. Just to be clear, I do not have a Purple Heart and I do not have PTSD.

As a receiver of the purple heart, I guess my vote counts strongly.

If a man gets a slight grazing wound in combat, he/she is entitled to receive the Purple Heart.

I believe in keeping everything as simple as possible, the better to understand the world around us. Because PTSD, which I suffer with, in addition to physical wounds from battle, involves the complexity of the brain, I think it should be studied further, until medical science can give us some conclusive evidence that it is a brain injury, and not a philological manifestation.

Wounds leave scars, this is true, and PTSD can have all the appearance of a scar, but it is not a true scar that can be viewed openly, on the physical body, and leave no room for argument.

I do not want to dishonor any one of my comrades in arms. PTSD is a symptom of war and most veterans receive a medal that exemplifies that they have served in combat. We are all wounded by service in combat, in our minds, and this is a fact of every war. An armless soldier gets only a purple heart. A soldier with a bullet graze gets only a purple heart. Even though the one suffers more so than the other, there is only the one medal.

I have no valid, medical premise for my opinion because it is a complicated matter of science and medicine; but of the hardships of combat, I know first hand. I think the combat medal, like the "Combat Infantryman's Badge", should serve as proof of combat and that PTSD should be treated as a wound of battle but that a separate medal should not be awarded for this wound, other than a proof of combat medal, like the "Combat Infantryman's Badge".

This is my first post and I'm honored to be here with true veterans, who have served their country.

I have suffered with PTSD for 38 years,I'm in my 3rd program.Some award should be given but I'm not sure it should be the PH.

I'm new to this site and just registered. But as to this subject: well, I'm a Cadre member of a WTU, Warrior Transition Unit. I see many soldiers come back as well as members of the Cadre who have some sort of PTSD, including myself. We even have those select few who ride the system saying they have it but never went outside the wire. But that's another story.

I have had and dealt with soldiers who received a PH for actually being injured, i.e. being shot or blown up. But the PTSD thing is something that should not be awarded for psycholigical issues. referring to the history of the PH, it was to award soldiers for their bravery and surviving a combat sustained injury, i.e. gunshot, shrapnel, etc. PTSD is normally, 98% of all cases, active upon returning from a deployment. Not while they are there. This if from the studies we get so we know how to deal with soldiers daily.

The First Purple Heart given out was for mertious severice not for wounds Gen maauther got it changed in 1931 for combat wounds Don`t belive check it out and look on the back of the purple heart

OK, that's correct, General Washington created the first U.S. military award for "instances of unusual gallantry, ... extraordinary fidelity and essential service" and the original Purple Heart was only awarded to three soldiers before 1932, all during the Revolutionary War. Since 1932, hundreds of thousands of Purple Hearts have been awarded to U.S. military service members for physical combat injuries inflicted by an armed enemy (retro-actively rewarded all the way back to 1917 for service in WWI). So, in the context of this discussion "Purple Heart for PTSD", I stand by my statement that if you start issuing the Purple Heart for PTSD, then you'd have to issue the Purple Heart for Agent Orange, then you'd end up issuing the Purple Heart for any injury or accident in a combat zone. If you want to have a medal for all accidents and injuries that occur in a combat zone, no problem, but don't call it the Purple Heart.

I have PTSD and I don't want a purple heart for it. What are they thinking, even looking at this.

NO, I also have PTSD and do NOT want a Purple Heart for it. HOWEVER, that being said, I think I should be awarded a Purple Heart for being shot in the chest in basic training with a M-1 round. I don't know about now, but in 1960 they didn't allow it. I did get awarded a Bronze Star in Viet Nam so I don't feel TOO bad. I think about 60% of War Vets have PTSD. Does anyone know if a study has been done on that? And what the percentage is?

The more combat one sees, the more (tours) battle stars one has, the more combat awards and valor medals earned... the more likely one's chance of developing PTSD becomes and the degree of severity increases!
THERE SHOULD BE NO DOUBT - if a warrior is awarded the Purple Heart for a physical wound and/or a valor medal for actions against enemies of the USA on the field of battle, common sense dictates it must be considered presumptive evidence that the warrior's Combat PTSD originates from said enemy action! Under such circumstances the Purple Heart Medal for Combat PTSD is richly deserved and should be awarded!
More compelling reasons why the Purple Heart Medal should be awarded to those brave warriors suffering from "POST COMBAT STRESS DISORDER" ASAP are posted at Griffin's Lair, http://www.grifslair.com Visit today, thanks, Grif.

Respectively to all those who champion this cause I must disagree. To award the Purple Heart for this may seem a noble cause, a 'feel good' reaction if you will, but to do so would not only cheapen the awarding of the medal to those who have already received it but to those who, unfortunately, will receive it in the future. It won't help cure the malady and may even it worse.

Much like the Army's decision to allow the entire Army to wear the 'black beret' I feel there is a lack of wisdom in it. The Rangers, being who they are, griped but kept up their true character and excelled above all else. Although the black beret was 'just a cover' you had to earn it. The Air Force decision to allow the security police to wear the blue beret was, I feel along the sames lines, a mistake.

Hopefully it will be decided not to jump on the band wagon in this 'feel good, everyone is equal' society and allow this honored medal to be awarded for other than physical wounds. I don't want to see the silver or bronze star's qualifications lessened so more can receive these medals. If we keep going down this slope it will get more slippery until the esteemed and honored Medal of Honor is even reconsidered.

Having said this I think something along the same lines of the PH could be decided on and put into place. I have PTSD and have been, so far, able to keep it in check. I don't want a medal for it nor would I accept the PH for it.

The Vietnam ribbon I have speaks of where I've been and what I've experienced. Those who were there know it and, in my opinion, those who weren't........

I understand that you disagree with giving the PH for PTSD, but I can't understand how you feel that the awarding of this medal for PTSD would cheapen your PH. I too received the PH for wounds I received in combat. I too suffer from PTSD, I was not in Vietnam so I can not compare my experiences in OEF/OIF to yours. I was nearly thirty years old when 9/11 occurred, and I immediately re-enlisted for another three years. Having talked to my father and my uncle about what they saw in Vietnam, it is apparent to me that although there are similarities, they are very different wars.
I wish to point out to you sir that the generation fighting today has been more shielded from violence than my fathers generation, due to censors telling us what we can and can't watch on tv or in movies. Too many people today try to eliminate violence from their childrens lives completely and therefore I feel that they are more susceptible to psychological trauma in the event they see or experience violence because of it.
I do not want you to think that I am attacking your ideals, I understand your feelings on the matter and I support your right to disagree, I am simply offering an alternate viewpoint that you may not have considered.

Well said, some of us old foggies use the term, “I know when it used to mean something”, a bit much these days, but in certain arenas it is true. Medals are one arena and I would agree on the Beret as another. What once was earned, is now given away. I always took care of something better if I had to work and earn it, then if it was just given to me. I see medals now for overseas service, school and on and on and wonder what the heck is going on. There used to be only one, GIVE ME ribbon when I came in, it was the National Defense Ribbon. All others had to be earned, or in the case of the VSM and VCM, actually served in a combat zone with feet on the ground. That has also changed to include Thailand, Laos and Cambodia and the surrounding waters. The ultimate water down effect occurred when DOD authorized the Combat Patch to boot to those troops in Thailand in 1992, that was a slap in the face of those who served on the ground in Vietnam, the Purple Heart for PTSD would fall into this category. Its true even back in my day, medals like the ARCOM, BRONZE STAR for merit were given to people who knew people and they did not earn them or they were based on rank. I understand nothing is perfect, medals are in that arena, but the bottom line is we must keep some awards pure and not lessen their value or prestige. The Purple Heart, MOH, Silver Star are some that should remain as pure as humans can make them or award them.

I have read these comments and I wonder if the question is a "generational" question. My daughter served two combat tours in Iraq. She was bombed and received a TBI which resulted in a twelve hour brain surgery and no Purple Heart. In my opinion that is just wrong. Months following the bombing she watched her best friend burn to death as well as two other team members. She was recently retired from the Army as a sergeant at the age of 23 and 50% of her disability is based on PTSD the rest for brain injury.
My point regarding the PH is that many of the people I know, civilians many of whom have no military connectedness, are of the opinion that our current batch of warriors should get everything they can for the sacrifices they have made for our country. Does that include the PH? I'm personally on the fence regarding the issue but I do wish they would be a little more consistent with the awarding of medals to those who have served regardless of what their sex is. I personally feel the armed forces, for all their advances, is still a rather male domain and they only grudgingly accept the opposite sex.
My generation is perhaps more of the "if you earn then you get it" but I think the new generation of warriors has a point too that all injuries, whether they are seen or unseen, are deserving of the PH.

You make a good point about your daughter, but ponder this; I was shot in the chest during training and did not get a Purple Heart. I am male, but at the time(1960)the Purple Heart was only awarded for wounds in/during a Combat Zone. Even so, while in Viet Nam (66/67) I had a junior officer that was awarded the Purple Heart for cutting his hand on steel banding while opening a crate. It seems each individual Command has it's own "slant" on awarding medals. In fact, I had orders promoting me to SFC-E7, that my Commanding Officer threw in the garbage. Because I would not extend my tour in Viet Nam for an extra six months. I told him I was an only child, plus had a wife and eighteen-month old daughter back home. But he would not change his mind. It took me TEN MORE YEARS to make the E7 he threw in the garbage. Due to the excess of enlisted rank in most all MOS's after the Viet Nam War shut down. Life is NOT FAIR, but we do the best we can!

The Pentagon has decided that it will not award the Purple Heart, the hallowed medal given to those wounded or killed by enemy action, to war veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder because it is not a physical wound.


"Googled" the issue of PH for Ptsd and found this wonderful site. After reading the comments found many good points on the subject. I've carried 100% for PTSD the last 45 years and it's a definite very real wound. A medal is only that, calling Post Traumatic Stress a Disorder bothers me. I believe in WW11 it was called "shell shock". Hope this evolves to something better as I've always felt labled , that, I don't appreciate. Liked the idea of a different way (like the CIB) if one needs another medal. I took a Punji stick in the jungle that wasn't reported on my unit's morning report and didn't receive a Purple Heart. I don't feel slighted at all. The medals I do have I don't look at, display or talk about. Am I really one short? Real glad to see Veterans being welcomed home and not spit at.
Wonderful website and look forward to exploring it.

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