Several weeks ago, the Army formally responded to a recommendation from a military psychologist that soldiers suffering from PTSD be awarded a Purple Heart. “No”, they said. “It is not a wound intentionally caused by the enemy”, explained an Army spokesperson. On lots of blogs and in commentaries written about this suggestion, many soldiers weighed in with their opinion. Few supported awarding PTSD sufferers a Purple Heart. Most said that such a decision would cheapen or debase this award.
We shouldn’t be surprised to be reminded that many soldiers are insensitive to wounding that is concealed within a skull — just as many PTSD sufferers are just a little ashamed of themselves for not being able to steel themselves against it. Throughout the Iraqi War, even those individuals who suffered these wounds commonly pleaded with their commanders to return to the field, when there was a pretty good chance that by doing that, their wounds would deepen, and could remain with them, for the rest of their lives. And back home, we have a long societal history of regarding psychiatric wounding as a class of human weakness, reflecting a lack of manliness and grit. As for the Purple Heart, no blood, no mas, no count.
The military DOES award the Purple Heart for an injury caused by ‘friendly fire’. For the life of me, I cannot understand why PTSD soldiers do not qualify, on these grounds. After all, the military (and we) set up these men and women for this severe wounding. It’s a pretty clear case of putting vulnerable young citizens (their brains) directly in harm’s way.
Perhaps the Army brass thinks that these wounds hidden inside the skull aren’t serious enough to merit consideration. I have news for you. There are a lot of ex-soldiers out there who would give up a leg or arm or foot or thumb or ear in return for recovery from their PTSD. Surely that weighs in a little higher than nipping off a small finger or toe or earlobe?
Have a heart, you active military and vets. Acknowledge their wounds. Thank your lucky stars if you have been able to dodge this neurological incoming. Give ’em the damn medal.