Proposed Purple Heart Legislation

Dear fellow OMSA members:

First of all, thanks to Military Trader editor John Adam-Graf, who has already been mobilizing Military Trader readers against the latest challenge to our hobby. Some of what I am using in this message to you comes from John’s recent blogging on the topic, so he deserves the credit for being one of the first to see the danger to us as medal collectors.

In September 2016, Member of Congress Paul Cook, a Republican from California, introduced legislation (H.R. 6234) that would make it a crime (a misdemeanor, and not a felony) to buy, sell, or trade any Purple Heart awarded to a member of the armed forces. Cook’s legislation was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, where it will be examined.

Congressman Cook is a retired Marine colonel, and he feels strongly that there should be no buying or selling of Purple Hearts that have been awarded. His rationale is that the Purple Heart “holds a special place of honor” as a symbol of “the great and sometimes ultimate sacrifice of American servicemembers.” Note that Cook’s legislation would not prohibit the buying and selling of all Purple Hearts. Rather, it would only prohibit the buying and selling of those actually awarded to individuals. For us collectors, however, as we are chiefly interested in medals linked to a recipient, Congressman Cook’s legislation has the potential to strike at the heart of collecting Purple Hearts.

I personally agree with Congressman Cook’s conviction that the Purple Heart is special and is deserving of both protection and preservation. That’s why I collect them, as do many of us in OMSA. All of us, without exception, cherish the Purple Hearts in our collections, and seek to honor the recipients of those medals. That’s why prohibiting the buying and selling of Purple Hearts—or any US decorations for that matter—is not going to make them any more special. Or protect or preserve them more. On the contrary, Cook’s proposed legislation is going to harm veterans and their families, and collectors. As John Adams-Graf puts it in Military Trader:  Cook’s legislation “is an affront to the liberty of veterans to decide how to dispose of their medals or of the collectors who desire to purchase and preserve the medals.”

For those of you who are not familiar with how legislation gets enacted, Congressman Cook’s proposed ban on Purple Heart buying and selling is now with those Members of Congress on the Committee of the Judiciary. You can find a list of those members here:

https://judiciary.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Full-Committee-Roster.pdf

At this point in early 2017, all OMSA members who feel that this legislation is misguided should write to the Judiciary Committee. You also should write to your local Member of Congress, even if that person is not on the Judiciary Committee.  Why?  Because if Representative Cook’s proposed legislation makes it out of the Judiciary Committee and on to the floor of the House, your Representative will be voting on it.

Here is a proposed letter that John Adams-Graf sent to Military Trader readers; I’ve modified it slightly but I did not change the tenor of the letter. Any OMSA member is welcome to copy and use it. I have already used the letter and mailed it to Representatives Goodlatte and Conyers. You should do so too. Note that you will need to send two copies of the same letter because Representatives Goodlatte and Conyers have different addresses and are from different political parties. A third letter could go to your own Member of Congress in your congressional district.

Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA-6)
House Judiciary Committee
United States House of Representatives
2309 Rayburn HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515

Ranking Member Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI-13)
House Judiciary Committee
United States House of Representatives
2426 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers,

I am writing to you express my concern about H.R. 6234, the “Private Corrado Piccoli Purple Heart Preservation Act,” that has been submitted for the Committee’s consideration by Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA).

While I believe that Rep. Cook’s bill is well-intentioned, I am concerned that it overlooks certain liberties.

As you are aware, a veteran’s medals are given to him by our government in recognition of his service. If that veteran chooses to sell or trade or otherwise dispose of those medals, that should be his right to do so—as he would be able to do with any personal property. I do not believe Rep. Cook considered that property right in his Bill because, if his Bill is enacted, it would infringe upon these rights of veterans or their heirs.

Furthermore, Rep. Cook’s proposed legislation, as it is now written, fails to acknowledge the thousands of private collectors and researchers who often become the custodians of these medals, whether through purchase or gift. In so doing, these people perpetuate the memory and deeds for which the medals were originally awarded. Without these committed researchers, historians, and hobbyists, these actions would be forgotten to the ages. Rep. Cook’s Bill would effectively criminalize these efforts to preserve the record of our military history.

I ask the Judiciary Committee to not recommend HR-6234 for a floor vote in the House. Rather, I hope the Committee and Rep. Cook will give consideration to alternatives that will both preserve the right of the veterans or their heirs to decide how to retain, transfer, give away, or sell their medals as well as the collectors and historians who are committed to preserving the historic record by purchasing, collecting, researching, and displaying these medals.

Thank you for your thoughtful attention,

One final point. We do not want this proposed legislation to be the ‘camel’s nose under the tent.’ If Congress bans the buying and selling of Purple Hearts, there is nothing to preclude it from deciding to prohibit the buying and selling of Silver Stars, Meritorious Service Medals, or any other medal or decoration that is awarded to a soldier, sailor, airman, marine, coast guardsman or merchant mariner.

Having written all of this about Congressman Cook’s proposal, do not panic. This is just a proposal. It is not anywhere near becoming the law of the land.

Best to all,  Fred

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