A couple of days ago I asked, incredulously, why there should be a rule denying the Purple Heart to victims of “friendly fire.” As usual, things turn out to be more complicated than they first appeared.
The general rule seems to be that the Purple Heart is for being wounded by the enemy.
When contemplating an award of this decoration, the key issue that commanders must take into consideration is the degree to which the enemy caused the injury. The fact that the proposed recipient was participating in direct or indirect combat operations is a necessary prerequisite, but is not sole justification for award. In general, accidents don’t quality, nor do combat-related diseases, such as food poisoning, frostbite, or PTSD.
By a special exception, friendly fire injuries “in the heat of battle” are covered. [See clause 6 (b) of the controlling regulation, Paragraph 2-8, Army Regulation 600-8-22 (Military Awards).] But that exception doesn’t apply if there’s no battle going on. Then we’re back to the “accident” category.
Now that I understand the logic, though, I don’t think I agree with it. If we want to have a decoration for those who were wounded defending their country, I can see the justification for a rule that getting hurt through your own negligence doesn’t count. But if a soldier in a combat zone catches a piece of shrapnel, it seems to me that he has a war wound, no matter whose shrapnel he happened to catch.
Time to change the rules? Seems that way to me, but I’m open to instruction.