Skip to comments.Three Years and Counting (Why is the Pentagon withholding Purple Hearts from deserving recipients?)
Posted on 03/11/2006 1:36:31 PM PST by RWR8189
I HAD JUST SETTLED DOWN to go to sleep when two thunderous explosions shattered the desert stillness. The blasts were still echoing when a young soldier at the back of my tent started shouting in pain. While other soldiers began tending their wounded comrade, I made my way outside. SCUD alert warnings were already going off--this was March 23, 2003, just days before the start of the Iraq war.
For a long moment I assumed that our camp in Kuwait had been hit by one or more missiles. But as I took in the chaos, the reality of the situation slowly sank in. It was not a missile strike, but a terrorist attack that targeted the leadership of the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. Much later in that long night, I learned that the terrorist was an American soldier named Sgt. Hasan Akbar.
Akbar, a radical Islamist who had attended a Saudi-financed mosque in South-Central Los Angeles, had thrown two grenades among sleeping soldiers, then opened fire with his rifle, killing Major Gregory Stone and Captain Christopher Seifert, and wounding 14 other soldiers. Among the wounded in the attack were the brigade commander and his executive officer. The brigade commander returned to duty later the next morning, and led his troops into Iraq three days later despite painful shrapnel wounds. His executive officer, whom Akbar shot when he left his tent to assist others, had to be evacuated and has since undergone multiple surgeries.
I really don't think too much about that night anymore, but when I do it's usually because I've heard from one of the soldiers involved or from a family member. While the soldiers never mention it, the family members almost always bring up one point: Is there anything that can be done to get the soldiers killed and wounded that night their Purple Heart medals?
The Purple Heart, which is awarded to a service member killed or wounded as a result of enemy or terrorist action, has never been presented to those killed and wounded that night. They have, so far, been denied this simple but important display of respect our nation gives to those who have sacrificed so much in its service.
Three years after the attack, the wounded soldiers and family members of the deceased are being denied this seemingly small, but emotionally important symbol by a military bureaucracy that cannot see past definitions. The Pentagon claims that Akbar--who was convicted of murder in a military trial last April and now awaits execution at Fort Leavenworth--was just a criminal and not an enemy. During Akbar's trial, I could understand that calling him a terrorist would probably unnecessarily complicate the prosecution. When the trial ended, though, I and many family members assumed the awards would be forthcoming. But when I inquired further, I was told that the incident was not deemed a terrorist attack and therefore the Purple Hearts could not be awarded.
Was Sgt. Hasan Akbar a terrorist? Judge for yourself. In a diary entry Akbar made five years before he actually struck, he wrote, "My life will not be complete unless America is destroyed." In another entry a month before shipping out to Iraq, he wrote, "I will have to decide to kill my Muslim brothers fighting for Saddam Hussein or my battle buddies." By any reasonable definition these are the words of a terrorist. He was just waiting for the opportune time to strike, and he found it in Kuwait on the eve of war.
The soldiers attacked by Hasan Akbar deserve to have that award signifying America's appreciation for their sacrifice and their loss. So do those like Major Stone's two sons and his sister, Tammy Hall, who wrote to ask me "for anything you know about my brother, if you ever talked to him or just anything at all. Please put yourself in my shoes, I just want to know his last words, did you visit him in the hospital tent? Did he have any last words?"
I answered her, in part, that I had spoken to her brother a few times while we were in Kuwait. He was an Air Force officer attached to an Army brigade, and I was there as an embedded journalist. I suppose we talked to each other because we were both strangers to the other soldiers in the unit. From what I remember, we talked about some technical stuff and how a war with Iraq would be fought. When he did talk about personal things it was usually about his sons, and it was apparent that they were his biggest concern and what he missed most about being away. He was a naturally easy-going guy, because he soon had a number of new friends in the brigade and was spending a lot of time on his official duties. So, I talked to him less as the war got closer.
On the night of the grenade attack, Stone's tent was directly beside mine. Everyone assumed, at first, that terrorists had attacked from outside the camp and that they were still in the area. The fact that Akbar shot two soldiers as they exited their tents reinforced this impression and convinced us all that there was still considerable danger. Disregarding that danger dozens of soldiers rushed to help those injured.
Despite the risk, one young medic ran several hundred yards in the pitch black to get his medical bag from a vehicle packed for the invasion and raced back with it. Others immediately entered the tents and began taking out the wounded. A major went to the operations tent, ordered medical evacuation helicopters, and alerted the nearby hospital trauma center. I was never sure of the exact timing, but I doubt more than 15 minutes passed between the attack and when helicopters arrived to rush the injured away. The efforts made by the soldiers, doctors, and surgeons that night were truly heroic. There was nothing more that could have been done to save the lives lost.
Before undertaking my duties as a journalist that night, I did help carry out some of the wounded, including Major Stone. He may not have known how badly wounded he was, because he began to push the medics away, and though I could not hear what he was saying, I could hear the medics reply: "No, sir we have to take care of you" and "Everyone is being taken care of. Let us work on you." It was clear he was trying to get the medics to go help the other wounded men.
I wrote to Tammy Hall that I had spoken to family members of others that were seriously injured that night. All of them seemed to be truly bothered by the fact that it was another soldier who did this, and many said that it would have been easier to understand if it was a terrorist attack. But I told her then, and I believe the trial of Akbar amply showed, that the man who killed her brother was not a soldier; he was, in fact, a terrorist.
Three years is a long time to wait. Two soldiers were killed and 14 wounded by a terrorist when they went, at the behest of their country and without reservation, too fight a war in a foreign land. Is it to much to ask of the U.S. military that these men and their wounded comrades from that night finally be awarded the Purple Heart?
Jim Lacey covered the Iraq war as a correspondent for Time magazine.
Lacey is wrong just like most TIME employees.
Maybe they gave all the medals to John Kerry!
Did I mention I've won it thrice?
The Purple Heart, which is awarded to a service member killed or wounded as a result of enemy or terrorist action, has never been presented to those killed and wounded that night.
Giving these men the purple heart would be the right thing to do, but would be a slap in the face to the "Religion of Peace" lie the Commander in Chief has been pushing.
I think these guys should get the Purple Heart, but I don't consider attacks on military targets to be terrorist attacks.
He was the enemy they should get the recognition
Then it was a sapper/saboteur attack.
I know what you mean about attacks on military targets not being terrorist attacks. However you are wrong in the sense that even irregular forces are supposed to wear some kind of uniform, an armband, a distinctive scarf, something. When they put on the uniform of an opposing military force, and then steal information, sabotage equipment or kill members of that force, they are spies, liable to be shot without trial. They are in violation of the accepted international rules of war. Thus they are illegal combatants, IOW, terrorists.
I don't believe he qualifies as a 'terrorist'.
Aside from that, what's with all the spelling errors I see from journalists these days?
"Two soldiers were killed and 14 wounded by a terrorist when they went, at the behest of their country and without reservation, TOO fight a war in a foreign land. Is it to much to ask of the U.S. military that these men and their wounded comrades from that night finally be awarded the Purple Heart?"
I agree with you. If we start expanding the criteria for a purple heart, it would be hard to know where to stop. What about a soldier who gets injured by a drunk driver while driving home from work in the U.S.? Will that qualify? What if one cook hurts another one in a military mess hall -- will that qualify?
If we're going to have a medal for getting wounded, we can't open it up to everyone.
Of course, some countries think it's odd we have a medal for being wounded or killed by an enemy in combat. I agree it's an odd tradition -- but it's our tradition and it's too late to get rid of it now.
Hillary was recently awarded the Purple Heart for some stupid reason. Go figure...
Let's put an end to this right now. Below is the AR that covers awarding the Purple Heart. Again, all this is, is some puke writer trying to make an issue out of something, in order to, once again, cast the military in a bad light. He could give a rats ass what medals our soldiers are being awarded.
Paragraph 2-8, Army Regulation 600-8-22 (Military Awards)
25 February 1995
The Purple Heart was established by General George Washington at Newburgh, New York, on 7 August 1782, during the Revolutionary War. It was reestablished by the President of the United States per War Department General Orders 3, 1932 and is currently awarded pursuant to Executive Order 11016, 25 April 1962, Executive Order 12464, 23 February 1984 and Public Law 98-525, 19 October 1984.
a. The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the President of the United States to any member of an Armed Force or any civilian national of the United States who, while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the U.S. Armed Services after 5 April 1917, has been wounded or killed, or who has died or may hereafter die after being wounded-
(1) In any action against an enemy of the United States.
(2) In any action with an opposing armed force of a foreign country in which the Armed Forces of the United States are or have been engaged.
(3) While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
(4) As a result of an act of any such enemy of opposing armed forces.
(5) As the result of an act of any hostile foreign force
(6) After 28 March 1973, as a result of an international terrorist attack against the United States or a foreign nation friendly to the United States, recognized as such an attack by the Secretary of the Army, or jointly by the Secretaries of the separate armed services concerned if persons from more than one service are wounded in the attack.
(7) After 28 March 1973, as a result of military operations while serving outside the territory of the United States as part of a peacekeeping force.
b. While clearly an individual decoration, the Purple Heart differs from all other decorations in that an individual is not "recommended" for the decoration; rather he or she is entitled to it upon meeting specific criteria.
(1) A Purple Heart is authorized for the first wound suffered under conditions indicated above, but for each subsequent award an Oak Leaf Cluster will be awarded to be worn on the medal or ribbon. Not more than one award will be made for more than one wound or injury received at the same instant or from the same missile, force, explosion, or agent.
(2) A wound is defined as an injury to any part of the body from an outside force or agent sustained under one or more of the conditions listed above. A physical lesion is not required, however, the wound for which the award is made must have required treatment by a medical officer and records of medical treatment for wounds or injuries received in action must have been made a matter of official record.
(3) When contemplating an award of this decoration, the key issue that commanders must take into consideration is the degree to which the enemy caused the injury. The fact that the proposed recipient was participating in direct or indirect combat operations is a necessary prerequisite, but is not sole justification for award.
(4) Examples of enemy-related injuries which clearly justify award of the Purple Heart are as follows:
(a) Injury caused by enemy bullet, shrapnel, or other projectile created by enemy action.
(b) Injury caused by enemy placed mine or trap.
(c) Injury caused by enemy released chemical, biological, or nuclear agent.
(d) Injury caused by vehicle or aircraft accident resulting from enemy fire.
(e) Concussion injuries caused as a result of enemy generated explosions.
(5) Examples of injuries or wounds which clearly do not qualify for award of the Purple Heart are as follows:
(a) Frostbite or trench foot injuries.
(b) Heat stroke.
(c) Food poisoning not caused by enemy agents.
(d) Chemical, biological, or nuclear agents not released by the enemy.
(e) Battle fatigue.
(f) Disease not directly caused by enemy agents.
(g) Accidents, to include explosive, aircraft, vehicular, and other accidental wounding not related to or caused by enemy action.
(h) Self-inflicted wounds, except when in the heat of battle, and not involving gross negligence.
(i) Post traumatic stressdisorders.
(j) Jump injuries not caused by enemy action.
(6) It is not intended that such a strict interpretation of the requirement for the wound or injury to be caused by direct result of hostile action be taken that it would preclude the award being made to deserving personnel. Commanders must also take into consideration the circumstances surrounding an injury, even if it appears to meet the criteria. Note the following examples:
(a) In a case such as an individual injured while making a parachute landing from an aircraft that had been brought down by enemy fire; or, an individual injured as a result of a vehicle accident caused by enemy fire, the decision will be made in favor of the individual and the award will be made.
(b) Individuals wounded or killed as a result of "friendly fire" in the "heat of battle" will be awarded the Purple Heart as long as the "friendly" projectile or agent was released with the full intent of inflicting damage or destroying enemy troops or equipment.
(c) Individuals injured as a result of their own negligence; for example, driving or walking through an unauthorized area known to have been mined or placed off limits or searching for or picking up unexploded munitions as war souvenirs, will not be awarded the Purple Heart as they clearly were not injured as a result of enemy action, but rather by their own negligence.
c. A Purple Heart will be issued to the next of kin of each person entitled to a posthumous award. Issue will be made automatically by the Commanding General, PERSCOM, upon receiving a report of death indicating entitlement.
d. Upon written application to Commander, ARPERCEN, ATTN: DARP-VSE-A, 9700 Page Boulevard. St. Louis, MO 63132-5200, award may be made to any member of the Army, who during World War I, was awarded a Meritorious Service Citation Certificate signed by the Commander in Chief, American Expeditionary Forces, or who was authorized to wear wound chevrons. Posthumous awards to personnel who were killed or died of wounds after 5 April 1917 will be made to the appropriate next of kin upon application to the Commanding General, PERSCOM.
e. Any member of the Army who was awarded the Purple Heart for meritorious achievement or service, as opposed to wounds received in action, between 7 December 1941 and 22 September 1943, may apply for award of an appropriate decoration instead of the Purple Heart.
f. For those who became Prisoners of War after 25 April 1962, the Purple Heart will be awarded to individuals wounded while prisoners of foreign forces, upon submission by the individual to the Department of the U.S. Army of an affidavit that is supported by a statement from a witness, if this is possible. Documentation and inquiries should be directed to Commander, PERSCOM, ATTN: TAPC-PDA, Alexandria, VA 22332-0471.
g. Any member of the U.S. Army who believes that he or she is eligible for the Purple Heart, but through unusual circumstances no award was made, may submit an application through military channels, to Commander, PERSCOM, ATTN: TAPC PDA, Alexandria, VA 22332-0471. Application will include complete documentation, to include evidence of medical treatment, pertaining to the wound.
h. As noted in a above, the Purple Heart may be awarded to civilian nationals of the United States. These individuals must be serving under competent authority with the Army when wounded. Serving under competent authority with the Army will include those eligible persons who are employees of the U.S. Government in a duty (pay or official travel) status when wounds are sustained. Examples of eligible individuals are as follows:
(1) Any Army employee who is traveling outside of the continental limits of the United States on PCS or temporary duty (TDY) aboard a commercial aircraft and wounded by international terrorists in an attempted or actual hijacking incident.
(2) An Army employee in an Army office building performing his or her job who is wounded by an explosive device detonated by international terrorists.
(3) A civil or foreign service employee from a U.S. Government Agency or Department attached to an Army element performing intelligence, counter-terrorist, or other duties with the Army wounded by international terrorists.
(4) An Army employee wounded in an international terrorist incident in which a soldier or soldiers are also wounded
Just because he was in an American uniform doesn't mean that he was not part of a hostile foreign force.
(a) Injury caused by enemy bullet, shrapnel, or other projectile created by enemy action.
(6) It is not intended that such a strict interpretation of the requirement for the wound or injury to be caused by direct result of hostile action be taken that it would preclude the award being made to deserving personnel.
I stand by my initial statement.
And if the Dept of the Army, or the DOD really wanted to do something for these families, they would have put the son of a bitch up against a wall and shot his sorry ass.
Shouldn't this be "too much to ask"?
I also noticed the poor spelling.
If Benedict Arnold had wounded one of Washington's soldiers in making his escape to British lines, would that soldier have qualified for the Purple Heart? By your standards, no, even though Arnold escaped to become a British Brigadier. Clearly this guy had deserted to the enemy. He was as much an "enemy combatant" as the irregulars in the "Fedayeen Saddam" who later fired on our troops. No one likes to see medals "cheapened", but if someone could be awarded a Purple Heart for banging into a fence post while ducking into a trench during a mortar attack (as happened to one of my comrades in Vietnam), then these soldiers can be decorated for wounds received from a terrorist enemy.
The soldiers who were at the LaBelle Disco in Berlin when it was bombed received Purple Hearts. I think it was President Reagan who redefined terrorism to include hostile acts against U.S. military forces.
If Benedict Arnold had wounded one of Washington's soldiers in making his escape to British lines, would that soldier have qualified for the Purple Heart?
She may have a purple heart or a purple ass, for that matter, but the sorry excuse of a lowlife POS has not, nor will she ever, receive a Purple Heart.