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Some want Purple Hearts for PTSD vets

By Mahsa Saeidi, Reporter
Published On: Jul 20 2012 09:37:07 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 20 2012 09:38:11 AM CDT
JACKSONVILLE -

 A new report encourages the US military to award Purple Hearts to Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)issued that report, in it, the group calls for Purple Heart Medals to be awarded for psychological wounds like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The report also calls for military commanders at all levels to be accountable for suicide prevention and elimination of stigma.

"NAMI is drawing a line in the sand with the Department of Defense," said NAMI Executive Director Michael Fitzpatrick. "Troops with invisible wounds are heroes. It's time to honor them. It will also strike a tremendous blow against the stigma that often discourages individuals from seeking help when they need it."

Not all Veterans agree with the report.

Verl Matthews is the Beirut Chapter Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart in Jacksonville.

Matthews served two tours in Vietnam in 1966 and 1969. He is the recipient of a Purple Heart for events that occurred on April 5, 1967.

On that day in Vietnam, Matthews, a US Navy Corpsmen, was putting an injured Lance Corporal in a helicopter, when the chopper blew up.

"I had burns in my hands, arms, back of the neck, I had shrapnel wounds to my legs and my left ear drum was blown out," said Matthews.

Matthews says he suffers from PTSD and understands the plight of those Veterans.

Despite that, the Commander says the Purple Heart should be reserved for those wounded or killed in combat due to enemy fire.

"Yes, people in combat do deserve something, and what the Navy and the Marine Corps gives is a combat action ribbon," said Matthews.