A small group of veterans and their loved ones gathered at American Legion Post 71 on Sunday to recognize Purple Heart recipients and their families for Purple Heart Day.
The Purple Heart, the oldest military medal still given to United States military members, was created by George Washington in 1782 to honor members of any armed force who have been wounded or killed.
Secretary-treasurer Sandy Stevens said she and other post members found there aren’t many events dedicated to recognizing Purple Heart recipients.
“Some of those wars were so bloody, and they were so young when they went. … They just don’t like talking about it and being reminded,” Stevens said. “But we need to be reminded. You have to keep honoring these people for their sacrifices.”
Donna Lamar, president of American Legion Post 550, said there’s another reason the award can be painful for people to talk about.
“It’s the medal of sacrifice, so a lot of times it’s the family members receiving the Purple Hearts because [the recipient] didn’t survive their injuries.” Lamar said.
Stevens said the post planned to have veterans or their families share their stories, but former Army Staff Sgt. Charles Peterman, 75, declined.
“It brings back too many memories,” Peterman said. “[People] just don’t really understand what went on over there.”
Peterman was awarded the Purple Heart after he was injured in Vietnam in November 1968. He had metal shrapnel embedded in his back for years after his injury.
“One time before 9/11, he set off the metal detectors in an airport, and he had to do the hand wand and everything,” Peterman’s wife, Annis, said.
He and Annis heard about the event through the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post. Charles said he still experiences post-traumatic stress disorder and avoids crowds and loud noises.
“I want to be where I can see that front door and see who comes in and out,” Peterman said. “I don’t want to be around people, really. I’ll go to the VFW because I know everybody there’s a veteran, or most of them.”
Annis Peterman said in her experience people still are not aware of the effects of PTSD.
“I don’t think people realize it,” Annis said. “Even now, when we’re out at a restaurant and someone drops a tray or something, you see guys flinch. They need to realize that if they’re sitting with their backs to the wall, there’s a reason for that.”
For more information about American Legion Post 71, visit http://txlegionpost71.org.
RHIANNON SAEGERT can be reached at 940-566-6897 and via Twitter at @missmusetta.