Being wounded during an operation in Vietnam did not necessarily authorize the award of a Purple Heart. The wound had to be the result of enemy fire. The way I read the Max Cleland wounding was that it occurred during an administrative landing of a helicopter on a secured LZ on a U.S. firebase. The helicopter had landed, some passengers had exited the helicopter, and Cleland decided at the last minute to stay at the firebase and meet with friends who were assigned there. Cleland threw his gear off the helicopter, jumped off, picked up his gear and started to walk away when he looked back and saw a U.S. hand grenade laying on the ground where his gear had been. Thinking he had accidentally dropped the grenade, he turned around to pick it up, and as he reached for it, the grenade exploded. This was undoubtedly a tragic accident but was not the result of enemy fire and would not normally have resulted in the award of a Purple Heart.
I don't know if anyone ever did a statistical study on the subject, but from personal experience, I witnessed almost as many U.S. troops wounded or killed by either accident or by friendly fire in Vietnam as I did by enemy fire. But then, no unit I served with ever took a good ass kicking.
If that detail is wrong, it must be a mistake on my part. This guy is the real deal. I've not only seen the shrapnel, I've seen footage of him in Vietnam.