That’s what the Pentagon is pondering, and although it’s nothing more than a gesture, making PTSD and other invisible battlefield scars worthy of this historic recognition would be something I’d welcome wholeheartedly.
WASHINGTON — Centuries before Iraq and Afghanistan, George Washington created the Purple Heart to honor troops wounded in combat.
But with an increasing number of troops being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the modern military is debating an idea Gen. Washington never considered — awarding one of the nation’s top military citations to veterans with psychological wounds, not just physical ones.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered cautious support for such a change on a trip to a military base in Texas this month.
“It’s an interesting idea,” Mr. Gates said in response to a question. “I think it is clearly something that needs to be looked at.”
Others are opposed…
Opponents argue that the Purple Heart should be reserved for physical injuries, as has been the case since the medal was reinstituted by Congress in 1932. Military regulations say the award should go to troops with injuries “received in action with an enemy.” Some opponents also note that PTSD can be faked, which can’t easily be done with a physical wound.
And here’s how many may be suffering under this sometimes debilitating condition…
A recent California-based research institution Rand Corp. study concluded that 300,000 of the military personnel who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan have symptoms of the disorder, which can sometimes lead to suicide. The report found tragedies closely linked to the development of PTSD: Half of the 1.6 million troops who spent time in the two war zones had friends who were seriously wounded or killed, while about 45% saw dead or wounded civilians.
The purple heart is a recognition for being wounded, and PTSD is a recognized in the military as a wound worthy of disability pay. Given that, this honor should catch up with current policy, because we know the military isn’t going to wake up tomorrow and say, “Well, PTSD isn’t actually that bad.”
What I’m trying to say is that this will happen and I’m glad to hear the conversation has started. Now it’s only a matter of time.