Nyles Reed, a 75-year-old Texan, sustained injuries during combat in Korea in 1952. Last week, the Pentagon sent him a letter to let him know he quali
August 16, 2007

Nyles Reed, a 75-year-old Texan, sustained injuries during combat in Korea in 1952. Last week, the Pentagon sent him a letter to let him know he qualifies for a Purple Heart.

But the Defense Department didn’t actually give Reed a Purple Heart; it just sent him a certificate saying he’d earned one. The mailing included a notice explaining that the medal for injured troops was “out of stock.”

“I can imagine, of course, with what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s a big shortage,” Reed said. “At least, I would imagine so.”

The form letter from the Navy Personnel Command told Reed he could wait 90 days and resubmit an application, or buy his own medal.

After waiting 55 years, however, Reed decided to pay $42 for his own Purple Heart and accompanying ribbon — plus state sales taxes — at a military surplus store.

We’ve apparently reached a point in which U.S. troops are injured so frequently in Iraq and Afghanistan — the number is now near 30,000 — that the military is running out of Purple Hearts. That’s stunning.

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