August 7th is National Purple Heart Day.
It doesn’t seem to be a day on calendars, there isn’t a card for it, and there are no cakes – nor should their be, if you ask me. What today is, to me at least, is a day to remember those who paid for their Purple Heart with their lives; to remember those who paid for theirs with their limbs, eyesight, organs, and blood; and above all, it reminds me of all the close-calls: the “could have been”; “might have been”; “an inch to the left”; or the “two seconds later, and…” moments.
All of those moments should serve to remind us all of the fragility of life and the fate of our fallen comrades. It should serve as a reminder to us all that we need to seize the moment – we need to make every second of this life count, and be meaningful.
For me the notion that I am a Purple Heart recipient often times fills me with a reserved feeling of guilty pride. At the time, we cheated death and got blown up, caught a little shrapnel in the process, were knocked around (or knocked-out) but came out more or less OK. And that was sort of a right of passage among a lot of the guys in the Brigade. But as time went on I saw more and more soldiers and troopers meeting the same fate that we did, but coming out a lot more worse for the wear.
Faced with these real wounded warriors, I honestly felt like shit. A cheat, a fraud who rated the award based on the written definition and regulations, escaping the loss of life and limb yet deserving to wear the same award. And I felt bad about that for a very long time.
But, much like life (and like war) time and some reflection allow you to see things from a different perspective: War is a roll of the dice, it is as simple as that. You can train and rehearse, and have the best team or unit put together – but when the first bullet flies and the first bomb goes off – it becomes a crap shoot. Some people come up snake eyes.
The shrapnel that should’ve killed me
All in all, we were very lucky. As a platoon leader in OIF III, my platoon – Charger Troop, 3rd Platoon – had nine recipients of the Purple Heart. One paid for it with his life. The rest were a combination of burns, concussions, shrapnel wounds, some scrapes and scars. As the war went on, by comparison, we were damned lucky. And on foreign fields in sandier nations, it still is going on.
Here is a post written about Purple Heart Day from a great blogger:
On this date in 1782, in Newburgh, New York, General George Washington created the “Badge for Military Merit,” a decoration consisting of a purple, heart-shaped piece of silk, edged in silver, with the word Merit etched. It was to be presented for any one meritorious action and it permitted the wearer to pass guards and […]