Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Purple Heart

My father was given this medal in 1951 or 1952. His army tank got blown up in Korea and he spent many months after that in a military hospital in Kansas. I was, in fact, born in the same hospital while my father was still a soldier-patient there.

The purple heart FOR MILITARY MERIT is awarded to citizens who shed their blood fighting their country's wars. I had heard about this object all my life, but only saw it for the first time this week. My father has been dead for almost 60 years.

His mother kept the medal during her own lifetime -- and she lived to be nearly 100. She always told me I would have it someday, but at her death it passed to my father's first cousin, a local woman who helped care for my grandmother.

Earlier this week my father's cousin -- now herself quite an elderly lady -- mailed the leather case and its contents to San Francisco, where I signed for the package. Henceforth it will be my turn to keep it safe, even though its significance to me is mostly sinister.