Courage is the kind of thing anyone can have. Grab the moment. Seize the day.
But valor is different. Valor is a special kind of bravery. Valor speaks to courage under fire. It is about acts of duty and grit in combat, and it often comes with consequences. Valor is spoken of at gravesides. Valor is commended in those who carry the injuries of battle the rest of their lives.
Valor is noted when a medal is presented — a medal such as the Purple Heart, given to members of the military “wounded or killed in action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces.”
The heroism of a Purple Heart is understood. That makes it an easy way to lay claim to courage by claiming ownership of the honor, and that is why a recent proposal from Southwestern Pennsylvania congressmen is an appropriate way to combat stolen valor: the practice of lying about military service and acts of duty.
This ugly theft is a federal offense. The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 makes fraudulently representing that one was given military honors for financial benefit equal prison time of up to a year for the Medal of Honor and up to six months for a slate of other service awards, including the Purple Heart.
But while other awards such as the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Air Force Cross and the Silver Star have recipients published on the Department of Defense’s website, the Purple Heart recipients are not included.
This probably is because of volume. There have been more than 1.8 million Purple Hearts — or its forerunner, the Badge of Military Merit — given out since 1782, and 350,000 recipients are living.
It is the longest awarded honor in the U.S. military. But that also makes it the easiest honor to claim without proof. It also makes it hard for some veterans organizations to help their brothers and sisters in arms obtain the services they have earned.
U.S. Reps. Guy Reschenthaler, Conor Lamb, Mike Kelly and Mike Doyle jointly have asked the department to include the honor alongside the others.
“By listing Purple Heart recipients on the Department of Defense’s valor awards website, we continue the time-honored tradition of recognizing these brave men and women and ensuring they have access to the resources they need from veteran service organizations,” said Reschenthaler, who served in the Navy.
It is something the four men were brave enough to do together, calling a cease-fire to partisan politics in this one field of battle. Reschenthaler and Kelly are Republicans. Doyle and Lamb (a Marine veteran) are Democrats.
Every House member, every senator, regardless of party, should join in this appeal, which would not only accord a more public testament to the service of those injured or killed while performing their duty but also would make the honor they were accorded less accessible to those looking to steal valor like common pickpockets.
— The Tribune-Review, Greensburg/ TNS