The Honor of Our VETERANS
By Congressman Paul Cook Contributed Content
Posted November 11, 2016 by the Victor Valley Daily Press
This year, I introduced legislation to
provide special protection for Purple Heart medals awarded to service members
wounded or killed while serving in the Armed Forces. This legislation would end
the buying and selling of Purple Hearts, a practice that transforms these
symbols of our brave service members’ sacrifices into collectible commodities.
This legislation isn’t just about good
public policy. I’m compelled to act by the personal stories attached to some of
these medals. One letter began, “They broke into my home and stole it. That was
my grandfather’s medal, the one he got from MacArthur. I know they’re just
looking for anything they can sell, but that medal was priceless.”
Another family’s story reads, “This
medal was precious to my parents. On special occasions, they would let us touch
it and hold it in our hand. As I grew older and missed my brother more and more
I realized, this is the only tangible thing we have left.”
These stories are two among many. The
Purple Heart has become a powerful symbol of sacrifice to our Nation’s
After the roar of battle ends and service
members come home from war, some were met with parades and honors while others
unfairly endured the silence of an indifferent country. Regardless of how their
war ended, Veterans of every conflict soon learned that America’s attention
span can be short and, without symbols and memorials, the sacrifice of past
generations is sometimes forgotten.
That’s why Veterans Day and symbols
like the Purple Heart have such a special place in our country. They remind all
of us to reflect on the sacrifices that have secured our freedom and recognize
the Veterans among us who stood in defense of our liberty.
When these symbols are cheapened, it
hurts us all. While most military collectors are honorable, good people, there
is also a distasteful and downright ghoulish desire by some collectors to
acquire Purple Hearts awarded to Veterans wounded or killed in famous battles.
Unlike collecting military gear from past conflicts, like helmets or uniforms,
trading Purple Hearts puts a monetary value on something priceless: blood
spilled in defense of our nation.
Our national symbol of sacrifice should
be off limits to profiteers. Allowing disreputable collectors to hawk a
veteran’s Purple Heart on the auction block like a baseball card demeans all
Veterans, especially those wounded in combat.
This Veterans Day I’m more committed
than ever to see these medals reunited with the families and veterans they
rightfully belong to. I’m not alone in this desire. My bill, H.R. 6234, has
received the endorsement of 34 Veterans Service Organizations, from the
Military Order of the Purple Heart to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Together,
we will preserve the Purple Heart, give it the protections it deserves, and
reunite these medals with their rightful recipients and descendants.
Symbols like the Purple Heart can bind
us together and make us a stronger people. We are a better country when we
remember our history and honor the Veterans among us who’ve sacrificed so much
so we can all breathe free.
We can’t be content to simply say
“Thank You for Your Service” once a year and go on our way. We must honor our
Veterans by protecting the symbols and traditions they hold dear. We can’t
allow the unscrupulous, selfish few seeking to profit from the sacrifice of our
Veterans to win the day.
Veterans Day is for those who have
defended our Nation and none other. We must stand firm and defend their honors,
just as they once stood and so bravely defended all of us.
Editor’s note: Big Bear Lake NewsRoom chooses to purposely
capitalize the name Veterans and treat the noun as a proper noun. Hopefully,
our readers will agree respectfully.
Editor E T RUSSELL