Since 2001, during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 57,675 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines received a Purple Heart. However, during each of those years, Purple Heart recipients were not only from these recent operations, but veterans from the Gulf War, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and World War II. Some of these brave men and women went more than six decades before receiving the recognition they deserved.
The history of this distinguished decoration dates back to the beginnings of our nation and was established by General George Washington on August 7, 1782, during the Revolutionary War.
For the brave men and women who have earned this recognition and would like to receive a Purple Heart, the good news is that it is entirely possible to get the award to which you are entitled. The bad news is that it generally requires arduous hoop-jumping from various government agencies. If the task seems too daunting, your local Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) are there to help. While these groups undoubtedly advocate for military veterans, it is strongly recommended that you research and compile as much of the required documentation before meeting with a VSO. Veterans who have done most of the legwork beforehand greatly increase their chances of receiving the Purple Heart.
The applicant must have been a member of the United States Armed Forces or a civilian national killed or wounded in any of the following scenarios: (1) any action against an enemy of the United States; (2) 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) an act of any such enemy of opposing armed forces; (5) an act of any hostile foreign force; (6) an international terrorist attack against the United States or a foreign nation friendly to the United States after March 28, 1973; or (7) as a result of military operations while serving outside the territory of the United States as part of a peacekeeping force.
Where To Begin – The Process:
Step #1: If a veteran’s injury was service connected, but not directly caused by the enemy, then unfortunately he or she isn’t eligible. However, if he or she does meet the initial criteria, the first step is to write a personal narrative, which must include the applicant’s name and rank at the top of the page and a description of when the injury occurred, including date, time, and location. If medical care was provided on scene or at a later time, even after the deployment, be sure to include this in the summary. Also include an explanation as to why medical treatment was not sought or administered immediately if necessary.
Step #2: Acquire two eyewitness-sworn statements. A veteran may still submit a package with only one, but most successful applications come after two or more supporting accounts testify to the applicant’s injury. These must be typed and written on “Form DA 2823” or a Word document with date and signature.
Step #3: Obtain a situation or casualty report from the military. If the injury occurred on the battlefield, there should be something in writing that either lists the injured person by name or describes the incident. Occasionally, this is the greatest obstacle to overcome as these reports can be classified, especially for veterans who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Iraq & Afghanistan.
Step #4: Gather relevant medical documentation that shows a diagnosis from combat injury. This would include documentation from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast, a Pre/Post-deployment Health Assessment, clinic referrals, neuropsychological evaluations, or anything that connects the injury with a combat event.
Step #5: Provide a copy of the deployment orders received at the time the applicant was activated or called to travel overseas. Only the orders for the deployment where the applicant was injured are relevant.
Step #6: If the applicant was awarded a certificate, summary of action, or has a form that proves the veteran received a Combat Action Ribbon or Combat Action Badge, include it as well.
Step #7: Acquire the most recent Enlisted Record Brief, Officer Record Brief, or Master Brief Sheet. If not readily available, this can be found on Army Knowledge Online (www.us.army.mil),
Marine Online (www.mol.usmc.mil), or
Navy Knowledge Online (www.nko.navy.mil).
For Air Force questions refer to Human Resources Command at www.us.army.mil.
Step #8: ALWAYS make copies, then mail (certified with return receipt for tracking of your package) all of the above in a parcel to:
U.S. Army Human Resources Command
1600 Spearhead Division Avenue
Fort Knox, KY 40122
For more detailed information, please go to: www.hrc.army.mil/awards. Note: All Purple Heart applications are submitted to the U.S. Army no matter what military branch of service you served. If help is needed when compiling these important pieces of evidence, please consider consulting with a qualified Veterans Service Officer in your area. Only after submissions to acquire a Purple Heart have been denied should a Congressional Office be consulted. +