Purple Hearts for Post Traumatic Stress?

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/91342767/91342743" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Soldier, Baghdad

A U.S. soldier mans a gun on a tank while on patrol in Baghdad. Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

The Purple Heart, the nation's oldest military award, is given to service members who are wounded or killed in combat. Though the award has been expanded over the years to include members of other military branches and ranks, it has always been defined in a strictly physical sense.

That's something some veterans advocates want to change. They say the award needs to address the growing number of troops returning from combat with psychological wounds — so they're asking the military to expand the award criteria to include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

John Forunato, an Army psychologist at Fort Bliss, Texas, says PTSD damages soldiers' brains, making it no different than conventional wounds. "These guys have paid at least as high a price, some of them, as anybody with a traumatic brain injury, as anyone with shrapnel wound," said Fortunato.

Advocates of the change argue that it's an important step in getting rid of the stigma around the disorder and other mental health issues facing soldiers, but not all the veterans agree. Both the VFW and American Legion have spoken out against changing the criteria, saying it would diminish the award.

Military Times reporter Kelly Kennedy says the idea still seems to be "on the unpopular side" among military personnel. "With the Purple Heart they say you should have to bleed for it, they say you should have had to receive a physical wound and PTSD isn't a physical wound," says Kennedy.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from