The Purple Heart Stamp
(April 15, 2010)
“Some shrapnel in my knee” was Earl McClung's reply when I asked him
if he was wounded in combat. Former SSgt McClung of Easy Company,
506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the now famous Band of Brothers
book and HBO mini series was wounded in Holland when a German 88
artillery round exploded in close proximity of the young
For his injury in combat he was awarded the Purple Heart medal. In
his case it was almost an after thought on the part of the US Army.
SSgt McClung wiped off the blood, took care of the wound himself and
got back to the war at hand.
He had jumped into Normandy on the
6th of June 1944, D-Day and fought through to the end of
Van E. Harl
the war, to include the Battle of the Bulge, suffering only that one wound. He
was extremely lucky. Many Purple Heart recipients to include his friends and
fellow soldiers of the 101st Airborne received their medals posthumously.|
The Colonel, my wife sent me to the Post Office to get some stamps:
it was 5 April 2010. 5 Apr 1917, the day before the US entered World
War I, is the official retroactive wear date for modern recipients
of the Purple Heart medal I just asked for a couple of books of
stamps and I was handed copies of the now fifth issue, of the Purple
Heart stamp first released in May of 2003.|
The first thing I thought of as I looked at the stamps in my hand
was SSgt McClung and Airman First Class Elizabeth Jacobson USAF. I
met SSgt McClung but I never met A1C Jacobson. Elizabeth was killed
on 28 September 2005 in Iraq. She was the first Air Force female and
the first Air Force Security Forces “cop” killed in Operation Iraqi
Freedom. Like SSgt McClung she too was awarded the Purple Heart
medal. Her family has her Purple Heart along with her other awards
and decorations received in her short time in the military and in
her defense of our country.
General George Washington was the originator of the first Purple
Heart. It was called the Badge of Military Merit and was made of
purple cloth in the shape of a heart. Only three were issued in the
Revolutionary War and then the award was mostly forgotten about. The
concept was reconsidered between WWI and WWII and made retroactive
for all wounded in WWI.
After the Vietnam War you did not see many new recipients of the
medal until 1984 when the wounded from terrorist attacks were
authorized the award of the Purple Heart. I remember meeting a young
Air Force Staff Sergeant in 2000 that had a Purple Heart ribbon on
his uniform, something you did not see everyday in the Air Force. He
had been in Khobar, Saudi Arabia in 1996 when terrorists exploded a
truck in the housing complex and 17 Americans were killed in what
became know as the Khobar Towers bombing. Hundreds were wounded to
include the Staff Sergeant. Crew members of the USS Cole who were
wounded or killed when that ship was attacked in what was suppose to
be a friendly nation's harbor received the Purple Heart.
Sometimes I do not understand the military and their ways. Captain
Tamara Long-Archuleta USAF was killed in Afghanistan when the rescue
helicopter she was co-piloting, crashed in the desert while making a
mercy flight to assist two injured Afghan children. The entire crew
was lost in a nation we were fighting a war in, but she was denied a
Purple Heart. Again I do not understand. Her family and the Girl
Scouts keep her memory alive at Rescue Rock in the Jemez Mountains
outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The US took serious the prediction of a million causalities in the
invasion of Japan during WWII, because they had 500,000 Purple
Hearts manufactured. There are still almost 120,000 of those medals
left. If you are a 2010 recipient of a Purple Heart that medal you
were awarded was made in 1944. The
National Purple Heart Hall of
Honor is the registry for Purple Heart
recipients and wants to locate and record the history of the men and
women who were wounded or killed in the defense of our Nation and
were so honored with a Purple Heart.
But the Purple Heart stamp is what got me started on this column.
Now in its fifth release because Americans truly like this stamp and
use it to remember our wounded and dead service members. Mail this
stamp with your next letter, it is an honorable act.
Van E. Harl
Major Van E. Harl, USAF Ret., was a career police officer in the U.S. Air
Force. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the
Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. Major Harl is a graduate of
the U.S. Army Infantry School, the Air Force Squadron Officer School and the Air
Command and Staff College. After retiring from the Air Force he was a state
police officer in Nevada.
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