Entries in Purple Heart (6)


Obama Visits Wounded Troops

Larry Marano/WireImage(WASHINGTON) -- Following Thursday morning’s health care victory in the Supreme Court, President Obama spent the afternoon visiting wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

The president awarded one Purple Heart and met with 52 wounded service members during his nearly three hour long visit, including 39 soldiers, nine marines, two sailors, an airman and a member of the Romanian Armed Forces, according to the White House.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Anonymous Soldier Pawns Off Purple Heart for Cash

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LANSING, Mich.) -- A pawn shop is an unusual place to find a Purple Heart.

The badge symbolizes courage and patriotism and is awarded to U.S. soldiers killed or wounded in battle.

But in a small Michigan town, hard economic times forced one anonymous soldier to part with what may have been the biggest symbol of his military achievement.

A-Z Outlet owner Bryan VandenBosch says a Purple Heart was sold to him in November by a West Michigan man serving in Afghanistan. The service member, who pawned off the precious medal, declined an interview request with the Holland Sentinel, which first reported the story.

"He was falling on hard times," VandenBosch told the Sentinel, adding that the soldier didn't want his name to be revealed. "He said the same thing everybody else who comes in here says. He was short on funds."

Unlike some other medals, a Purple Heart is not engraved, which can make it difficult to track down the recipient.

Veterans have been particularly hard hit by the economy, with the unemployment rate for this group hovering at 7.4 percent in November. The problem is particularly profound in Michigan, where the veteran unemployment rate is nearly 30 percent, higher than both the national average and the state's unemployment rate.

The reports have sparked a flood of sympathy from across the country. Both individuals and military organizations have reached out to VandenBosch offering to buy the medal back for the anonymous soldier.

But the pawnshop owner, who has been flooded with calls from around the country, said he never intended to sell the Purple Heart and is keeping it for the soldier, should he want it back.

It's not unusual for Purple Heart medals to appear in flea markets and for sale online. But many of those belong to deceased service members, and what makes this case unusual is that the medal was sold by the recipient himself.

Under the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, it's against the law to sell a military decoration or medal. VandenBosch said he never intended to sell the medal to begin with and has taken it down from the lit glass case in which he showcased the Purple Heart earlier this week, adding that he should never have put it there in the first place.

Some are questioning the authenticity of the medal, which is awarded in a special presentation case with a lapel pin. It is relatively easy for servicemembers to buy a Purple Heart, says John Bircher, national spokesman for The Military Order of the Purple Heart. They are sold for about $30 at a military base, and even though they are only meant for recipients looking for a replacement, often the sellers don't ask for proof of eligibility.

A Total of 1.7 million Purple Heart medals have been given out since the award was created in 1932. As of June, more than 12,500 servicemembers serving in Afghanistan had received the medal.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Marines Apologize for Sending Christmas Ornaments to Deceased

US Marines(QUANTICO, Va.) -- The Marines are apologizing for a well-intentioned Christmas gift gone wrong that has upset the families of about 1,150 fallen Marines and sailors who received a Purple Heart Christmas tree ornament in the mail addressed to their deceased loved one.

Late last week the Marine’s Wounded Warrior Regiment mailed about 9,000 Christmas ornaments donated by the Semper Fi Fund, a charitable organization.  The ornaments were intended for post 9/11 living Marine recipients of the Purple Heart, which is the award given to service members wounded in combat.  Sailors awarded the Purple Heart while attached to or serving in support of Marine Corps units were to also receive the brass ornaments that contain an image of the Purple Heart in the center.

However, the regiment’s list of Purple Heart recipients did not distinguish between the names of living and deceased recipients of the medal. That meant about 1,150 families of fallen Marines and sailors also received the ornament in packages addressed to their deceased loved one.

The regiment apologized to the families Tuesday after it began to receive calls Monday night from family members distressed about how the packages had been addressed.

“There are no words to express how very sorry we are for the hurt such a mistake has caused the families of our fallen warriors,” Col. John L. Mayer, the regiment’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “We always strive to honor the sacrifices these Marines, sailors and their families gave to this country.

“There is no excuse for why this happened,” he said. “We accept full responsibility for this error and are moving quickly to reach out to the families we have affected.”

“The intention was to thank Purple Heart recipients for their service,” said Capt. Jill Wolf, a spokeswoman for the Wounded Warrior Regiment, which assists non-medical care to injured Marines, sailors and their families as they return to duty or transition to civilian life.

The regiment is sending letters of apology to the families of fallen Marines and sailors included in the mailing and Mayer is personally calling the families who contacted the regiment.

Wolf said that the Marine Corps began to receive calls from the families of fallen Marines on Monday as the packages began to arrive in the mail. By Tuesday evening, 35 families had contacted the Marines, with the majority expressing shock that the packages had been addressed to their loved ones and asking to be removed from the list.

She said there had also been some positive feedback from some families who wanted the Marines to know how much the ornament had meant to them, but who also asked to be removed from the list.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Personally Awards Purple Heart to Wounded Marine

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BETHESDA, Md.) -- Cpl. Justin Crabbe, 22, received a special visitor in his hospital room at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., becoming one of the few service members to personally receive the Purple Heart from President Obama.

In a video posted to YouTube by the Crabbe family, the president, clad in hospital scrubs, is seen greeting the Marine, who lost parts of both legs while fighting in Afghanistan.

“This is a testimony to the high regard and honor the entire country feels towards you,” the president told Cpl. Crabbe Monday as he bestowed the military decoration awarded to those who have been wounded in combat.

President Obama met with 38 wounded troops and awarded four Purple Hearts on his 11th visit to meet with injured service members at the military hospital Monday. According to the Pentagon, 46,542 troops have been wounded in connection with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Awards Six Purple Hearts

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BETHESDA, Md.) -- President Obama on Wednesday visited the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where he awarded six Purple Hearts and met with wounded warriors and their families.

“During his visit to the National Naval Medical Center today, the President met with 22 service members -- 21 of whom served in Afghanistan, 1 of whom served in Iraq,” White House Spokesperson Nick Shapiro said in a statement. “While at the hospital, the President awarded 6 Purple Hearts.”

The president spent an hour and a half at the Medical Center before returning to the White House.  Mr. Obama visited the Medical Center almost exactly a year ago, for a physical, after which he visited with 12 service members who had been injured in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Purple Heart Vet Sues for Retaliation; Blew Whistle on Alleged Corruption

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A decorated Army colonel is suing the Military Order of the Purple Heart after he said the veterans organization for soldiers wounded in combat turned on him after he blew the whistle on alleged corruption and wasteful spending among the top brass.

Ret. Col. Henry Cook III alleges that after he spoke out in an ABC News investigation, he was wrongly removed from his position as the National Commander.

In an affidavit filed in the lawsuit, Cook says the organization retaliated against him and dismissed him "for my exposing of the mismanagement of funds and grants of 'Purple Heart Dollars' on national television."

Cook tells ABC News that he doesn't believe anything has changed in the organization since he left and that only a small fraction of money donated makes it to veterans.

"I want to see change," Cook said. "I want to see something come of this. If I have to fall on that particular battlefield and be expelled, I'll pay that price if we get the change. But I've decided I'm not going to pay it if they're not going to change, so I'm fighting them."

Charity watchdog group the American Institute of Philanthropy, still ranks the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation an "F" in its latest charity rankings. The report says that only 32 percent of donations are actually spent on program services, and the organization spends $63 to raise every $100.

In a statement to ABC News, the Military Order of the Purple Heart said, "We absolutely disagree with Mr. Cook's allegations in the lawsuit, and we also disagree with Mr. Cook's effort to 'try' his case in the media. We will not otherwise comment on pending litigation, but rather will let this matter run its course through the court system."

John E. Bircher III, director of public relations for the group, said, "Speaking personally, I am a 30-year veteran and a Purple Heart recipient myself and I am extremely proud of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation whose members work tirelessly to provide needed services to the membership and all veterans."

Cook says that donation dollars should be directed locally.

"I think if you want to help combat wounded veterans, find the local [MOPH] chapter," Cook said. "Because that's where the good work for veterans really takes place. They have no overhead."

The original ABC News investigation led to a congressional hearing into veterans charities that collect a lot, but contribute relatively little to vets. The story featured Cook as he blew the whistle on his own organization, saying foundation leaders threw lavish parties, including a $40,000 retirement party for a top charity official with guests flown in from across the country.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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