Smiley: All Military Members Hurt in Battle Deserve Purple Hearts

Legislator works to make sure those with traumatic brain injury are honored
Thursday, May 12, 2011

BURTON - State Representative Charles Smiley (D-Burton) is working to make sure that all members of the U.S. Armed Forces who are wounded in battle, including those who suffer increasingly common traumatic brain injuries, are honored with the Purple Heart medal they deserve for defending our freedom and safety.

“Since the days of George Washington, our nation has awarded the Purple Heart to show our gratitude and respect for the tremendous sacrifices that our wounded veterans have made,” said Smiley, who is a member of the House Military and Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Committee. “Today’s wars are different, though, and those wounds - particularly traumatic brain injuries caused by improvised devices in Iraq and Afghanistan - are not always visible. The military’s way of honoring our armed forces must also evolve to include acknowledging the sacrifices of the brave men and women who have to deal with these ‘invisible wounds’ for the rest of their lives.”

Smiley introduced a resolution in the House today urging the US Department of Defense to apply uniform standards for awarding the Purple Heart. The resolution has been referred to the Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security.

For many years, the eligibility criteria for the Purple Heart have been interpreted to be injuries that are visible and tangible in nature.

Today, the life-altering consequences of “invisible wounds” such as traumatic brain injury are better understood. They are also more common because improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are used widely by enemy forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and the quality of emergency care and equipment have contributed to an increased survival rate in military personnel sustaining traumatic brain injuries.

The Army recently set new guidelines for awarding Purple Hearts, and other branches have been examining their own practices. In spite of this notable progress, the fact remains that the application of these standards is still uneven.

“Given the heroism displayed each day in mountains and deserts far from our shores by brave men and women working to defend our nation and its ideals, it is imperative that our nation acknowledges the sacrifices that every injured veteran makes,” Smiley said.