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MILITARY MEDALS Selling the Purple Heart upsets some who served



Published: Thu, July 28, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



For less than $20, anyone can own one of the top military awards by going online.

SALT LAKE TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON -- Not a Purple Heart recipient? Want to be one for $19.95?

That's right. No longer do you have to trudge into battle, face insurmountable odds, get wounded or killed in the name of your country to receive one of America's top military awards. You can simply buy one off the Internet, where this week a Purple Heart could be purchased on eBay starting at $19.95. But falsely claiming to have earned one of the nation's top military medals may soon be a crime under new legislation from Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo.

"That should be against the law," says former Navy corpsman George Wahlen of Roy, Utah's only living recipient of the Medal of Honor who also was awarded three Purple Hearts in World War II. "It's something that is a personal thing. It shouldn't be sold."

Easy to get medals

This week, eBay had a Purple Heart and Bronze Star package with a bid of $24.95. Or you could purchase a Navy Cross -- awarded for courageous and distinguished service -- for $39.95. And the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Cross was going for $11.95. Plus shipping, of course.

That disturbs Lt. Col. David Thomas, spokesman for the Utah National Guard.

"I think it's sad that people would stoop to that," Thomas said. "I don't think you can put a price to those medals. People have given their lives for those medals."

One eBay seller, who didn't want his name used, said the "vast majority" of his business comes from current members of the military, retired soldiers or their families who just want to replace medals. There is an official channel to replace medals, though that can be difficult, the seller said.

He also defended his business and dismissed the proposed legislation as one meant to "make people feel good about this because it will take their minds off other things."

But Salazar, the bill's sponsor, says his legislation is meant to protect the honor of the medals, so that not everyone can buy one and profess to be a recipient.

"Shame on those who claim credit for acts of courage they did not commit, their lies are criminal," Salazar said.




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