Dreaming a Long Ago & Far Away Purple Heart


On this day in 1794 George Washington ordered the creation of a medal that quickly came to be called the Purple Heart.

It is awarded to those wounded in combat.

Among the few things I own that were my father’s is a VFW cap with three rows of medals on it. Now, my father was a complex man, and among the complexities was a strong fantasy life and a constant puffing of things. I once read a newspaper story from when he was a bartender talking about his combat experience. Pretty much all of it was fabricated. He was a medic. This I know for sure. But, he was, for whatever reasons, ashamed of that fact. He wanted to, and the stories that flowed out of the bars he worked at all had him carrying a gun not a medical kit. For me inexplicable as he was in combat. No doubt.

Among the medals on that hat is a Purple Heart with two oak clusters, meaning he was awarded three of them.

As he lost an arm and throughout his life little bits of metal continued to work their way out of his body, I’ve never doubted the veracity of the Purple Heart.

There’s also a Bronze Star. This, I don’t know. I just don’t know. Once I tried to track down his service record, but his record appears to have been lost along with many other peoples in a catastrophic fire back in 1973. So, a good chance I will never know with any certainty any of this…

Well, except that Purple Heart, those Purple Hearts…

I am someone who believes in the importance of truth. And someone who believes we can find facts beyond the subjective, if perhaps a bit less tangible than I would totally like.

And, I understand the power of dream.

And that the real world is a bit slipperier than really is comfortable for human beings…

Here’s what I do know.

There was a terrible battle. My father was tending the wounded. A friend had his face blown off. My father tried to help. He couldn’t. His friend wanted my father to shoot him, to end it.

He couldn’t.

And then he was hit with an explosion.

I know this experience.

I can picture the battle. I can picture everything.

My father relived that time many, many times later. Often fueled by alcohol. A fever dream.

Repeated.

Repeated.

And now my dream.

My memory.

My wound.

I know he earned that Purple Heart.

I remember how it happened.

And,

Maybe,

Somewhere

in some corner of reality,

I own a small part of it, too…

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