April 1, 2011  

Medals deserved

TO GENS. PETER CHIARELLI AND JOSEPH DUNFORD for leading the push to ensure that troops who suffer concussions are eligible for Purple Heart recognition. The Army vice chief of staff and Marine Corps assistant commandant have drafted orders that, if approved by their service chiefs and others in the Pentagon, will finally make clear to commanders that traumatic brain injuries sustained in combat, including concussions, qualify troops for the Purple Heart. The move corrects a too-long-held misperception by some that for a wound to merit the Purple Heart, it must bleed.

Traumatic brain injuries may be invisible, but they can be just as serious as visible wounds and potentially cause longer-lasting effects. TBI can alter personality, destroy memory and diminish responsiveness and intelligence. Put another way, it’s an injury that can alter who you are.

In the Army alone, some 125,000 soldiers have suffered concussions in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The intention of the Purple Heart is to honor those who have been killed or wounded in combat. Purple Heart criteria define a wound as an injury to any part of the body from an outside force or agent, and state that a physical lesion is not required. It is therefore clear that proper recognition of many of the injured in our current wars is long overdue.