The women and men in the United States military truly represent the very best of our country and on Memorial Day, we honor the soldiers who gave their lives in service to protect our rights and freedoms as Americans.
We are also reminded of the charge we have every single day to serve our veterans and their families, and to preserve the memories of their heroism.
Perhaps no other military distinction exemplifies this sacrifice more than the Purple Heart, which is awarded to Armed Services members who are wounded or killed while defending our country.
Unfortunately, many Purple Hearts have been lost, stolen, or discarded and a second-hand market has developed. While not all Purple Hearts are awarded posthumously, perhaps one of the most disturbing features of this market is that Purple Hearts engraved with the name of a service member who was killed in action are often sold at the highest prices.
This lack of respect for both the Purple Heart and the heroism of those who have received it should not be tolerated and it impedes the work of organizations like Purple Hearts Reunited that return lost or stolen medals to veterans and their families.
As Doug Middleton, Region IV Commander for the Military Order of the Purple Heart in Roswell, Georgia, said, “sacrifice and valor represented by the Purple Heart Medal should never be cheapened by being treated as if it were some simple commodity that can be bartered.”
While I cannot believe this step has not already been taken, it’s been an honor to work with veterans in Georgia and across the country to put an end to profiteering off the sacrifice of America’s war heroes through second-hand sales.
The Purple Heart Preservation Act is a necessary solution to the ongoing problem of unscrupulous profiteering in the market for Purple Hearts and has already won the support of over 40 veterans organizations.
Through this work, I heard the story of Private Corrado Piccoli, who served in World War II as an infantryman in the 45th Infantry Division. Private Piccoli was reported missing in France, and later killed in action in October of 1944. Among the many awards he received for his service was a Purple Heart, which later went missing.
Sixty-five years later, another veteran – Captain Zachariah Fike – received Private Piccoli’s Purple Heart as a gift from his mother, who purchased it in an antique store. He researched the medal, located Private Piccoli’s surviving family, and returned the Purple Heart to them.
Captain Fike himself was awarded a Purple Heart in 2010. Both he and Private Piccoli answered their country’s call. Their courage and sacrifice – and the sacrifices of all of our veterans and their families – must never be far from our hearts.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I’m committed to doing all I can to ensure that today’s soldiers have what they need, that the promises made to veterans and their families are kept, and that the legacy of those who paid the ultimate price is never forgotten.
The freedom and liberty we are all blessed with today has come with great loss. On Memorial Day we remember those who gave all. Every single day is an opportunity to honor those who have given so much for us.