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Top 10 Notable Purple Heart Recipients

In honor of Memorial Day we present the following article. The Purple Heart is given to those injured or killed during military combat. Every recipient of the Purple Heart is notable, but some stand out as “most notable”. In descending order they are:

# 10 Lex (Honorary Recipient)

While deployed in Iraq during the Iraq war with his handler, Dustin Lee, Lex, a bomb sniffing dog, was wounded on March 21, 2007, during an attack by insurgents. The attack killed his handler, and Lex suffered severe wounds from shrapnel. When Medics arrived, Lex had to be restrained as he prevented anyone from approaching his handler. Lex got granted early release and adopted by USMC handler Lee’s family. On February 16, 2008, the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter #566 presented Lex with a commemorative Purple Heart at a ceremony held at the Air Force Armament Museum at Elgin Air Force Base.

Following Lex’s release from service he visited veteran’s hospitals to comfort and cheer up wounded veterans.

#9 Audie Murphy

After serving for 27 months in the European Theater during WW II, Murphy, a fifth grade drop-out, became the most decorated soldier of the war. In addition to the Purple Heart, he received the Medal of Honor, the United States military’s highest decoration and about 30 more that include five from the French and Belgium awarded him one. Following the war he became a film star, making 44 Hollywood films. He died in 1971 in a plane crash.

# 8 Carlos (White Feather) Hathcock

As a gunnery sergeant in the United States Marine Corps during the Viet Nam war, Hathcock recorded 93 confirmed kills. Known as “White Feather” because of the white feather he kept in his hat band, he was so effective that the North Vietnamese put a bounty on him of $20,000. Generally, their sniper bounties ranged between $8 and $20. One of his most famous kills occurred when he shot a North Vietnamese sniper through the sniper’s own rifle scope, shooting him the eye. He also holds the record for the longest successful kill shot (2,500 yd).

His sniper career ended due to an incident on a road when his truck was hit by an anti – tank mine. Hathcock saved seven other marines but was badly burned.

# 7 Ernie Pyle

Ernie Pyle was not in the military. He was a war correspondent during WWII. His writing style was unique for a war correspondent as he related stories about the soldiers and their everyday life on the front. He wrote the stories as if he was writing a conversation. The country loved his work and his column was in over 300 newspapers. Frequently Pyle had to come back from the states to look after his wife – an alcoholic who suffered from depression.

Pyle loved reporting from the European theater. Later in the war one column compared the life of an infantry man in Europe to a sailor in the Pacific theater. The implication was that the Navy had it easier and many were angered by this. He confessed that he had a bias towards the more intimate setting of the ground war in Europe. He was killed on April 18, 1945 by a machine gunner while traveling on a road in le Shima, an island not far from Okinawa Honto. He was one of a handful of Americans awarded the Purple Heart during the war.

# 6 John Kerry

In January, 1966 John Kerry enlisted in the Naval Reserve. Only seven months later he got called to active duty to serve during the Viet Nam War. During the war Kerry received three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and one Silver Star. The third Purple Heart and the Bronze Star were in recognition of his actions as a Swift Boat commandeer involved in an incident that occurred on March 13, 1969 on the Bay Hap river. Kerry’s boat and five others were returning to base when a rocket or mine exploded, severely damaging Kerry’s boat and injuring him and tossing James Rassmann, a Green Beret advisor, overboard. Kerry, with a severely injured arm immediately swung the boat around and rescued Rassman. Another boat in the small fleet was severely injured and Kerry and his men assisted in rescue operations and then returned to base.

Kerry entered politics and became a United States Senator. In 2004 he was the Democratic nominee for President. During the campaign a group of 200 Viet Nam veterans formed a group called Swift Vets and POW’s for Truth. They alleged that Kerry did not deserve his combat metals and the group placed ads on TV and held press conferences that questioned Kerry’s actions during the war. The allegations, though controversial, were untrue and politically motivated. The term “swift boated” is now part of campaign election language and means that a group formed to propagandize about a candidate’s past achievements.
Kerry lost the election and is a Democratic Senator from Massachusetts with a very liberal voting record.

# 5 John Sidney McCain III

John McCain is the Senior Senator from Arizona and was the 2008 presidential candidate for the Republican party. A race he lost to President Barak Obama. McCain served in the Navy during the Viet Nam war.

He was on a bombing mission in October of 1967 over Hanoi, the capital of North Viet Nam when he got shot down and sustained severe injuries. McCain was captured by the Vietnamese and was a prisoner of war until 1973. Despite sustained torturing he refused an out-of-sequence early release from the North Vietnamese and remained a prisoner. Even today, McCain suffers significant physical limitations from his war wounds. Having survived 5 years as a POW he retired from the Navy and immediately went into politics in the state of Arizona. Sometimes abrasive, McCain is beloved by people as a true American war hero.

# 4 John F. Kennedy

During World War II, John Kennedy was a naval officer. He commanded PT boats. In early August, 1946 he was on patrol on PT-109, along with two other PT boats near New Georgia in the Solomon Islands. The Japanese destroyer Amagiri rammed PT-109, cutting it in half, killing two and severely injuring two. The crew swam off to a small island. Although Kennedy had injured his back in the incident, he towed a severely burned crewman to the island by gripping his life jacket strap with his teeth. They were rescued a short time later.

Kennedy later went on to become a Massachusetts senator and got elected to the Presidency of the United States in 1960 as the youngest president in American history.
He was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.

# 3 Colin Luther Powell

Colin Powell had a long military career. After achieving the rank of General, Powell served as the National Security Advisor, Commander of the US Army Forces Command and was Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs during the first Gulf War. Additionally, General Powell was the first African-American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He retired with the rank of four-star general.

Following his army career, the retired general became the first African-American to serve as Secretary of State. He was part George W. Bush’s administration.

# 2 Eric Ken Shinseki

Shinseki was born in Hawaii in 1942. He is a retired four star general from the United States Army. A Viet Nam combat veteran, Shinseki has an injured foot from that war. Currently he serves the country as President Obama’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

# 1 Patrick Tillman Jr.

Pat Tillman gave up a promising career in the National Football League to enlist in the United States Army in June, 2002. He joined as he felt the country’s needs were more important than his career following the Al Qaieda terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. After joining the army he became an Army Ranger and completed a number of combat tours in Afghanistan. He was killed in the Afghanistan mountains on April 22, 2004. In addition to the Purple Heart, Pat Tillman was awarded the Silver Star, allegedly for his activities on the day he died. It was first reported that he died in combat from enemy fire during a fierce fight. But, it was later revealed that Tillman was killed by friendly fire when an Afghan Army patrol and his unit became confused and fired on each other.

Documents prove that within days of the incident the Army command was aware of what happened but awarded him the Silver Star and Purple Heart with a citation on “fierce enemy fire.” The family, then aware of the circumstances of his death, were furious.

Tillman’s mother charges that “this lie was to cover their image.” She also said: “After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this. They purposely interfered with the investigation; they covered it up. I think they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a hand basket if the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy”.


From Joe Gibbs: Do you have a passion and determination about your life? Are you focused on playing the full sixty minutes in the game of life? As a coach and race team owner, I’ve always emphasized a fast start to the season to instill confidence. Then I wanted the middle part of the season to set us up for a strong stretch run. I want to be consumed with storing up treasures in Heaven as I strive to finish well. Check out Tony Evan’s Chapter on Purpose in Game Plan For Life for more direction on getting the most out of life.


Ralph Aniba

Thank you Joe. My father recieved two Purple Hearts during WWII in the Pacific Theater. I have always been very proud of him. What makes me even prouder, he served in the Army of Occupation in Japan after the war. He could I am sure been bitter towards the Japaneese but he never was. He had made his peace and forgiven. He died in 2001 a caring father,grandfather and an example to us as a committed Christian. If I can only be half the person he was to my family I will have acomplished something in my life. You have three fine young men accomplishing something in their life working for you. I have high regard for all 3. Keep up your work for the Lord. I am second.


Ralph, thank you for sharing that. Joe, keep up the great work you are doing. Go Redskins (time for another ring…).


Young men in Australia need other men to lead them. We will fail to compete in the race of life well if we continue in self-centredness and absolute narcicissm. Thankyou Ralph for sharing what you did. It totally voids and complaints I could ever have with God, where he has placed me, and the world in which I live. Men like your grandpa are lost to my generation, I dearly wish we could hear from them today. There wisdom is needed in a time such as this.

Louis Marquez

Hi Joe, I want you to know that I have followed your illustrious career with the Redskins & Joe Gibbs Racing, also, I worked with your dad JC (Jack Clephus Gibbs), I also had the pleasure of meeting your mom Winnie. Oh yes I worked with Jack at BofA, and went golfing together, at the time your dad was living in or near the Norwalk area. Good luck & God Bless. Lou.

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