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The lingering scars of a Purple Heart

The Auld Soldier's 7th Purple Heart.

That's a scan of a piece of paper that's pretty rare.  A seventh Purple Heart.  With the passing of the Auld Soldier I've been going through the accumulated "stuff" of a long, and at times adventurous, life well lived. 

The Purple Heart is a funny thing. 

It's a medal no one wants, but is very proud of if they get it.

There's a famous politician who got three of them, none requiring a stitch or a moment of lost time, much less a day or years in the hands of the medical system, and used them to depart Vietnam early.

Then there's our own Bill, who probably could come close to the Auld Soldier in terms of these medals if his unit (and personal) culture hadn't been such that if the injury wasn't severe enough tot keep you from duty, then it wasn't really worthy of putting in for the medal (or stopping the medical guys from issuing it automatically, as was usually the case).

Then there's people like Lieutenant Leonard Cowherd, who only got one Purple Heart.  

The National Cemetery system is full of people with only one Purple Heart, and the medal was their admission ticket.
 
Just as rehab centers around the country are full of amputees learning how to live and work with their prostheses who have only one Purple Heart.

Which are probably two reasons why that politician took such heat for his and they way he tried to exploit them.

Then there's the singular Chuck Z, who has only one Purple Heart - that he gave his left nut for.

The Auld Soldier, for a chunk of his career, would periodically ruin shirts when a piece of chinese grenade would work itself out of his body, leaving a nice little bloodstain.  He would sometimes set of the airport magnetometer.  He lived with lower back pain from his injuries.  In a sense, Dad was Died of Wounds.  The pain he had masked the cancer he had - the docs would focus on the old, obvious symptoms, treat those, and not look any deeper.  He lost a kidney and a good chunk of his bladder, and eventually, his life - because his cancer presented just as his other aches and pains, and so the docs didn't dig like they would have otherwise.

What prompted all this?  Chuck Z's recent trip to the ICU because of chest pains.  Turns out there wasn't a heart attack.  But now - Chuck could find himself entering the twilight zone that the Auld Soldier was in, where you get used to the pain - well, maybe not with Chuck, it really is pretty serious pain he finds himself mugged by - and you tend to discount the other possibilities.

I know the Army medical system - they really like to focus on the symptoms, and treat those, and sometimes miss the inter-connected things.  That's a 50+-year perspective.

So, when I read about Chuck's trip to the ICU, it got me to thinking about the Auld Soldier and his issues... and I realized that in a sense, there are probably more "Died of Wounds" than the actual records register.

I count the Auld Soldier in that group.  Here's hoping that Carren keeps Chuck *out* of that group.

9 Comments

 Amen to that, John.
 
Greetings:

In a comment to one of your earlier posts about your father, you mentioned his having received a Combat Infantry Badge.  I would be interested in hearing more about that.


 
7?? Maybe a lucky number. The Auld Soldier led a charmed life. Is that the record or is there someone out there with more magnetism? And...even more good luck.
 
That's...

God hold the Auld Soldier in the hollow of his mighty hand forever.

Thanks.
 
I am grateful beyond words to not have one of those certs in my possession, either from my own experiences or those of my many relatives who've worn uniforms.  My friend has at least one (I haven't asked or counted), having got blown up not once, but twice, by IEDs.  And I can't begin to say how much I hate that vile truth.  I just can't imagine how odd it would feel to sift through that pile of paper and with each one be reminded of how close I came to being an orphan, or how screwed up a world it is that we live in that we still count coup, so to speak, with these things.

I have nought but the most sincere respect for the people who've 'earned' them, but I hate seeing them on uniforms. 

As to the 'Died of Wounds' notion, I've known a couple people that I believe that to be true of.  I've known more--a LOT more--who wore some kind of scar or disfigurement they acquired at the hands of an enemy who was trying to kill them.   I know I am far from alone in this company, but sometimes, it saddens me to tears to think about all of them..... 

 
Within the last couple of weeks, after presenting a soldier's 5th PH, Spartan6  (CDR, 3/10 MTN) informed SSG Camacho that 1) He was not a cat, and thus did not have 4 more lives; and 2) he was going home, whether he liked it or not.

Somehow, we still make guys like that.
 
*sigh*
Sad, but true, John.

My Mom has an artificial knee for the same reason right now:  her doctor ignored her complaints about feeling a lump behind her knee for a year.  The lump was not due to her arthritis, but was, instead, a tumor.  She has a couple of inches of bone removed below her knee and replaced by a rod during the knee replacement surgery which would have been completely unnecessary if her doctor had just taken an x-ray when she first complained about it.  Oddly, it was a substitute doctor who ordered the x-ray and discovered the tumor when her regular doctor was on vacation.
 

Purple Hearts do not come in a single flavor.  Mine was a cheapie.  An Air Force Cluster Bomb Unit (CBU) set as a booby trap - IED in today's parlance and tripped by my RTO.  I heard the noise and turned to see what it was.  I knew immediately, but did not have time to react.  The explosion scared me, but did not hurt me.  The piece that would have killed me was deflected into the dirt by my helmet.  The pieces that found their mark were in the fleshy parts of my trail party.

I did not need to be evacuated, the battalion surgeon flew out with a few tools and some disinfectant.  He removed the fragments with forceps, complained that I should go to the evac hospital and left disinfectant with both me and with the company medic.  The stuff he gave me was called Jack Daniels.  The company medic kept it all from getting infected and all was forgotten until I out processed and the S-1 clerk handed me my purple heart, a product of the paperwork mill that started with the surgeon's report.  A real cheapie.

I compare this with missing limbs, body bags, and multiple assaults on the human body.  Its not a perfect world, but some deserve these more than others.

 
The most Purple Hearts received by one person is eight. Six U.S. Army soldiers share that distinction:

Richard J. Buck - Four Purple Hearts in the Korean War and four in the Vietnam War
Robert T. Frederick - Eight Purple Hearts in World War II; also received two Distinguished Service Crosses
David H. Hackworth - Eight Purple Hearts in the Korean War and Vietnam War; also received two Distinguished Service Crosses and ten Silver Stars
Robert L. Howard - Eight Purple Hearts in the Vietnam War; also received the Medal of Honor
William L. Russell - Eight Purple Hearts in World War II; Silver Star
William Waugh - Eight Purple Hearts in the Vietnam War; also received the Silver Star