Narional PTSD Awareness Day

Today is National PTSD Awareness Day so we’d like to bring some attention to one of the most serious conditions that plagues the lives of many of our servicemembers in order to encourage an open discussion where the needs of such individuals are recognized and acted upon. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that may result following the experience of a life-threatening event, such as combat. Experiencing feelings of irritability; recalling painful memories; or having trouble sleeping are common symptoms felt after such experiences. It is also possible for PTSD symptoms to occur later (and sometimes not appear for months or even years after the event) or start and stop again over the course of time.

 

It is important to realize that PTSD is an ailment that can affect any individual, in many ways, and is not a sign of weakness. Additionally, PTSD is more likely to occur from violent or long-lasting traumatic events, or events that resulted in injury (both common occurrences for military personnel). Hardships in daily life can also further the detriments of PTSD symptoms; however, social support can reduce them. Therefore, identifying symptoms of PTSD and treating them early on will lessen the burden on the lives of our servicemembers and their families.

 

Although everyone experiences symptoms differently (and may experience an array of symptoms), there are four common types of PTSD symptoms:

  1. Reliving the experience/having flashbacks of the traumatic event
  2. Avoiding situations, people, or places that trigger memories associated with the event
  3. Experiencing negative feelings like guilt or shame; or experiencing emotional numbness
  4. Constant alertness/trouble sleeping

 

These symptoms may also be a catalyst for larger problems, such as depression or anxiety; excessive drinking and drug consumption; difficulty staying employed; and relationship problems. To treat PTSD symptoms, individuals can seek help through trauma-focused psychotherapy and medication. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is one such example of trauma-focused psychotherapy, where skills are developed to alter perceptions of the event (and thus how one feels about it). Additionally, individuals may find Prolonged Exposure (PE) effective, in that the trauma is discussed repeatedly until negative feelings associated with the event become less severe. It is also common for individuals to seek help via medication. However, it is important to consult a physician for any form of medical treatment.

 

As a family member, friend, or loved one of a servicemember suffering the effects of PTSD, there are certain ways you can assist them in acclimating back to civilian life:

 

  • Allow your servicemember time to spend alone, as well as in the comfort of others.
  • Help your servicemember find a local support group or therapist to talk to so they know they aren’t alone in their experience and can listen to other perspectives.
  • Allow them time to become reacquainted with the various relationships in their life, as well as a new daily routine.
  • Maintain a positive outlook and serve as a reminder to them that things will get better.
  • Avoid pressuring them to discuss things they may not feel comfortable with, instead identify and seek out comforting situations, people and places.
  • Help them set short-term & long-term goals that are realistically achievable.

 

The healing process takes time.

 

It is also possible that your service member may never be comfortable sharing information about past traumatic experiences. In these cases, it’s best to let the professional counselors do their job (if they are seeking psychotherapy) and ensure them that they have your full support.
You can also show your support by aiding the efforts of The Purple Heart Foundation. Each of our programs is dedicated to serving the needs of all veterans and their families and researching conditions like PTSD. Click here to see the various ways you can donate to our cause. Alternatively, you can host your own event to raise funds for the Purple Heart Foundation and donate the proceeds here. Every contribution makes a huge difference in the lives of those who so bravely defended this country’s freedoms. For more information about our programs and services, please contact us.

Celebrating Military Spouse Appreciation Day

 

Today, May 11, 2018, has been proclaimed National Military Spouse Appreciation Day. The Purple Heart Foundation would like to express our deepest gratitude to the husbands and wives that sacrifice so much to support their loved one’s military careers. Military spouses often give up stable jobs, they must move constantly and be distant from their spouses for long periods of time. That sacrifice is one that can not be ignored, nor can their commitment and support for their spouses, so for that, we thank our nations’ military spouses.

The first time military spouses were celebrated nationally was on May 23, 1984 by proclamation of former President Ronald Reagan as a singular day of observance. Over a decade later, in 1999, the celebration of military spouses became an annual observance which would take place on the second Friday in May. The month of May officially became deemed National Military Appreciation Month by Congress that same year, which would include annual observances like National Defense Transportation Day, Armed Forces Day, Military Spouse Appreciation Day and the most well-known patriotic May holiday, Memorial Day.

We stand by the words of President Reagan from his original proclamation of this day, when he confessed the importance of military spouses to our country. Reagan wrote that “as volunteers, military spouses have provided exemplary service and leadership in educational, community, recreational, religious, social and cultural endeavors…and as parents and homemakers, they preserve the cornerstone of our Nation’s strength—the American family.”

One of the most notable times of strength for military spouses is seen during the many moving processes. Being active-duty comes with the perk of traveling the country and sometimes the world. But the downside is that this requires the whole family to relocate, not being able to settle down and become rooted to a single location or community. Military spouses start their research on the new location as soon as possible. They look for affordable housing, good school districts, after school activities, creating a network of friends, finding online resources for doctors, meanwhile taking care of the packing and unpacking, staying strong for the whole family and turning that new house – into a home. Many times, a military spouses’ strength goes unnoticed, so a single day of appreciation within a year is a start, though they deserve so much more. So here are a few ways that you can show your appreciation to a military spouse on this Military Spouse Appreciation Day!

1.) Say “Thank You”
Sometimes, a simple “thank you” is enough to show your appreciation to your military spouse.

2.) A day of Pampering Together
If you are a veteran or active duty military try to make the day all about your spouse, do whatever makes them happy, pamper them and show you appreciate all that they do.

3.) Give your military spouse a day off.
Take care of all the major responsibilities, whether you or a family member or friend does it or you hire some to do it. Make sure your military spouse has no worries for the rest of the day.

4.) Token of Appreciation
Military Spouse Appreciation Day is like the military version of Valentines Day. Enjoy a romantic evening of dinner, buy flowers or chocolates. Pay attention to hints that may lead to a thoughtful gift idea.

5.) Donate
Donate to a foundation that supports veterans, active-duty military, and their families. https://purpleheartfoundation.org/donation-direct-support/

Generations of Dedication

April is the “Month of the Military Child,” and here at the Purple Heart Foundation we wanted to learn about, understand, and share what it is like to grow up as a military child. Although no two experiences are quite the same, each child growing up in a military family must deal with a certain level of hardship and unique difficulties in order for their parent/parents to bravely serve this country. We had the opportunity to interview Curtis Cruz and learn more about his unique experience growing up as a military child.

Curtis, 28, spent the first part of his life growing up on the island of Guam. This was one of a few places where Curtis spent his childhood and teenage years. He moved when his father, who bravely served for twenty-four years in the United States Army, received new assignments. Curtis is not only a military child, but he now proudly serves our country in the United States Air Force as a Staff Sergeant. He is a laboratory technician at the Dover Air Base in Dover, Delaware.  

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Curtis shed a light on what it was like to grow up with a parent in the military.

“Growing up in the military was a very unique yet challenging experience. I moved a total of 5 times up to the age of 18. It was difficult to continuously make and have to leave old friends, start over again, and make new friends. I’m very grateful for it though because I’ve met some great people along the way that have turned into long lasting friendships. I’ve met people from different races, cultures, and countries.”

He explained that though it was tough at times, being a part of a military family allowed for a unique opportunity to travel and experience places that many people, especially children, don’t usually get to. For example, Curtis moved to Germany at the age 15 and spent his high school years there, giving him an opportunity to see different places all across Europe. One thing in particular Curtis wanted to share with us was his experience attending high school in Germany.

“The high school was very small so everybody knew each other. I had a strong friendship with 4 guys who all happen to be in the military now as well. We all became best friends and even 10 years after graduating (in 2008) we all still meet up with each other.”

We were curious, so we asked if growing up with his father in the military ultimately influenced Curtis to join himself. Curtis’ grandfather served in the US Air Force, and though Curtis’ father served in the US Army, he felt as though the Air Force would be a great fit for Curtis. “He spoke very highly of [the Air Force]…. When I was a senior in high school, he had me talk to a recruiter to discuss everything and see how the Air Force would be beneficial for me”

Though much of his life has revolved around our country’s military, Curtis has also found time and become extremely passionate about the fitness industry. In fact, he is a competitive bodybuilder. When he is not in uniform you can more than likely find him lifting heavy weight, sweating on the stair-master, or meal prepping.

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As we neared the end of our interview with Curtis we asked him what was one piece of advice he would want to give to other kids growing up with either one or both parents in the military.

“My piece of advice would be to stay open minded. It can be difficult being a child in a military family due to constantly moving. I would tell them to cherish every experience and welcome it all. When I was a kid going through the same thing, I was upset at times. But looking back on it all now I’m eternally grateful for all the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had.”

The Purple Heart Foundation is so grateful for Curtis, his family, and all of our military families’ dedication to our country. It is no easy task serving in our military just as it is no easy task being in a military family and having to make sacrifices that may not be your own choice. We are committed to honoring ALL of our heroes and their families. You can help make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women in uniform. Show your support for them and their families by making a one-time or monthly pledge to make sure they continue to receive the support and benefits that they deserve.

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero

Yesterday across the United States, a brand new animated movie, that’s sure to get two (2) paws up, was featured for the first time on the big screen. This inspiring true story depicts the life of sergeant Stubby, a brindle bull terrier that became the official mascot of the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division of the United States Army. His story is one of loyalty, valor, and friendship. It begins on the streets of New Haven, Connecticut where Stubby roamed the streets as a stray.

In 1917, the United States entered World War I and seemingly overnight America began prepping for war. According to the history behind the movie, “Storefronts became induction centers for young men to join the fight, back yards became ‘victory gardens’ to avoid wartime food shortages, parks and schools became training grounds to convert ordinary citizens into combat-ready Soldiers” and those training grounds are exactly where Stubby found his forever home within the military and his new owner, Private First Class Robert Conroy.

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At first sight of his puppy salute, Conroy’s commanding officer deemed Stubby the infantry mascot and so Stubby joined his men on the front lines on February 5, 1918. Stubby knew more than just how to salute, he learned the bugle calls, the drills, how to decipher English from German, how to detect traces of gas to warn his soldiers, and how to locate wounded men on the battlefield. Stubby had been in 17 battles; he was exposed to toxic gas and received multiple surgeries to remove shrapnel that hit him from an explosion. Stubby’s most notable accomplishment was when he found and secured a German soldier trying to map out the Yankee trenches. For capturing an enemy spy, Stubby was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, making him the first dog to be given rank in the United States Armed Forces.

After the war, Sergeant Stubby became the most famous animal in the United States, serving in parades, visiting presidents Wilson, Harding and Coolidge, became the mascot of Georgetown University and was awarded many medals for his heroism, including the Purple Heart for his wounds in battle. Sergeant Stubby is now featured at the Smithsonian Museum of American History and you can enjoy learning the story behind Sergeant Stubby with the whole family for the price of a movie ticket. Your little ones can even make their own Purple Heart medals on the Sergeant Stubby website.

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We are so grateful for Sergeant Stubby’s bravery, sacrifice, and honorable service. The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to honoring ALL of our heroes, and it is our goal to make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one, sometimes that even includes partnering service dogs with our wounded veterans. Show your support for our troops and help us continue our service dog programs by making a one-time or monthly pledge.

A First For Everything

On August 13 in 1918, the United States Marine Corps opened its doors,allowing for the enlistment of women, so that they may join in the efforts of World War I. On that day, over 300 women enlisted. First in line was Opha May Johnson.

On May 4 of 1878, Opha May was born in Kokomo, Indiana. Her family and she later moved to the Washington D.C. area in 1895, where she went to school and graduated from the Shorthand & Typewriting department of Wood’s Commercial College. She lived and worked in civil service in Washington D.C. as World War I began.

At this point in time, women were only able to serve our country through means of moral and economic support. The majority of this included sending clothing and supplies to the troops, rationing foods, and buying and selling war bonds, but many also found other ways to help through various organizations around the country. Women were not allowed to be close to the frontlines of war, but often times would act as nurses, treating those wounded at evacuation hospitals, far behind the lines. There was also a new level of political influence that this war opened up for women that had not been there previously. In fact, many jobs opened their doors for women that previously hadn’t.

As the summer of 1918 approached, the war dynamic shifted. The Allied Powers found themselves on the offensive, though this unfortunately resulted in a high number of casualties. The final push of the war called for more trained and battle-ready troops. This lead to the need for women to serve in non-traditional (non-combat) roles. On August 8 of 1918, approval was given to women, allowing them to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve in order to serve in clerical positions. This in turn would free up the Marines currently in those positions, allowing for their deployment to the front lines.

On August 13, 1918 hundreds of women lined up to join. At 40 years old, Opha May was the first. Her past education coupled with her experience in civil service set her up to become a great candidate for the positions the Marine Corps Reserve was looking for. Opha May found herself assigned clerical duty in the Department of the Quartermaster. She quickly proved herself capable and on September 11 of that same year she was appointed to Sergeant. By the early part of 1919, Opha May was the only female reservist still working in the Quartermaster Department who held a rank.

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As the War ended, the female reservists began to be discharged from the Marine Corps Reserve. Many of these women, including Sgt. Opha May Johnson, decided to continue working in the War Department, but in the role of civil servants.

At a time when women were not particularly valued or readily greeted in the military, many stepped up when their country needed them. Opha May Johnson being the first of these strong and determined women. Despite the role women were expected to play in society, Opha May and hundreds of other women rose to the occasion of something much greater. Throughout history, it is moments and people like this which have made our country so special, and has fueled our growth. Without the courage and determination of Opha May, and all those like her, we would not be where we are today, 100 years later. In the one hundred years that have passed since Opha May became the first woman to enlist in the Marines, women have persisted and now are serving in combat roles, and helping to further protect our country’s freedoms. The Purple Heart Foundation is so grateful to all of the women, and all of the men who serve this country. We are committed to honoring ALL of our heroes. Show your support for our men and women in uniform by making a one-time or monthly pledge to make sure they continue to receive the support and benefits they deserve.

The Sisterhood of the Military: Susan Hale Jaracz Story

When you think of the military one word that comes to most people’s mind is “brotherhood”. But what happens when a woman is thrown into the mix? Does that change the dynamic of the team? Does that mean there could be a “sisterhood” within the military? In recognition of Women’s History Month, The Purple Heart Foundation was fortunate enough to get in contact with Susan Jaracz, a female Army veteran, to learn about her military background and her experience with sisterhood in the military.

Susan was a “tiny-town girl” from Wyoming who was trying to figure out her life while her family was going through a rough time. Susan told us “I felt like I was in survival mode….[so] at the time [joining the Army] was the best decision I could have made for myself.”

Susan went through basic training in Fort McClellan, Alabama as 31B Military Police. She was first assigned to Law Enforcement at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, NY. She came to love this small base in the big city but was later assigned to Darmstadt, Germany where she remained through 9/11, after which she went to airborne school and then was assigned to Fort Bragg. She was deployed to Afghanistan and then Iraq, moved to the DC area for assignments at the Joint Staff in the Pentagon and at Fort Belvoir. She was later re-deployed to Afghanistan from Fort Bragg and was finally stationed at Fort Meade, where she would stay until leaving active duty.  

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When deployed most people expect to gain a sense of “brotherhood” which, as mentioned before, is so often associated with the military. However, throughout Susan’s military career “she never deployed and felt the camaraderie that [she] hoped for.” When she was thinking of joining the military, she said “I always wanted to and was discouraged from doing so over and over”, she later learned that her father didn’t’ want her to join the military because he knew it could be a lonely life and some tough living. She found this especially true when women in her unit, including herself, were punished because their fellow male soldiers were flirting with them. “I was told I did well by ignoring them but I was doing pushups for whatever it was I did that attracted their attention”. Though Susan believed her FEMALE drill sergeant meant well, this interaction made Susan aware that she couldn’t be asking for help when it came to gender discrimination. She confided in us that she, like so many other women in the military, took a lot of sexual harassment… “Things like people senior to me standing body to body with me, smelling my hair, then in public berating and belittling me to those junior than me”. She later found that these actions concealed how those particular men felt towards her. She later learned  to stand up for herself and tried to tackle the root of the issues directly with the individuals by effective interactions that could change the circumstances. But when these issues were brought up to Equal Opportunity (EO) representatives she wasn’t taken seriously and found this again reinforced the idea that women couldn’t get help.

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More than 200,000 women are in the military (according to CNN) and yet we hear these types of cries for help so often. The problem here Susan said is that “women need to look out for each other, not just themselves, and they should do it without going overboard and without being disrespectful”. Although Susan has long-lasting friendships from her female camarades in the military, there is little sense of “sisterhood” within the military when there should be so much more.  Susan’s advice for young women interested in joining the military is this…”Don’t compromise being a woman to be a good soldier. You CAN do both! You can have effective conversations with people of any rank that both mitigates things you shouldn’t have to put up with and without making you look like a person that ‘cries EO’ when you are offended”.

Through her struggles as a woman in the military, Susan maintained a successful military career. She ultimately holds rank of Sergeant First Class which she obtained during active duty, was part of the USAR, and is currently in the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR). She’s also had a son with her husband and still serves her country by healing her brothers and sisters in uniform. During active duty, Susan underwent acupuncture therapy due to chronic pain. The success of this therapy led her to go back to school at Maryland University of Integrative Health. Susan received a Master of Acupuncture in order to become a Licensed Acupuncturist, is a Certified Acupuncture Detoxification Specialist and has a Post-Baccalaureate in Chinese Herbs. She now runs her own practice where she offers special discounts and services to veterans and emergency workers. Susan says “[she] has a big heart for them….and will always remain a part of the military community in one way or another”.

We at the Purple Heart Foundation thank Susan for her bravery and her words of encouragement and advice towards women interested in or currently in the military. Her experiences are not unlike so many other women’s but by sharing her story we hope to spread her strength.

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We are so grateful for Susan’s dedication to our country, and for her honorable service. Women like her (and men) are the reason behind our daily freedoms. The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to honoring ALL of our heroes, and it is our goal to make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women in uniform who defend our freedom. Show your support for them by making a one-time or monthly pledge to make sure they continue to receive the support and benefits that they deserve.

Marine Corps Lt. Col. Amy McGrath

In recognition of Women’s History Month and International Women’s day, The Purple Heart Foundation is featuring amazing women veteran’s accomplishments today and throughout history. Throughout history, women’s voices have been unheard. Today’s featured female veteran decided to raise her voice for what she was passionate about, and she’s been doing so since she was only 12 yrs old.

At 12yrs old, most kids don’t actually know what they want to be when they grow up. But a young Kentucky girl knew exactly what was in store for her future. Amy McGrath had a passion for fighter jets, a passion that she would pursue, even in the face of adversity, according to her biography. The obstacle Amy faced in her youth was the U.S. law prohibiting women from serving in combat roles. So from a young age, Amy took it upon herself to encourage change. Amy wrote to her local congressmen, but they paid no heed to her advocacy to remove this restriction on women in the military. So, Amy reached out to the Congressional Armed Services Committees, hoping to find like-minded individuals that believed in her cause and had the political power and position to make a difference. She received positive feedback but it wasn’t until 1997 when the law was lifted during Bill Clinton’s 1st year of re-election. This lead to Amy’s acceptance at the US Naval Academy where she would play varsity for the 1st Navy Women’s Soccer Team, graduate as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps with a Bachelor’s in Political Science, and commision right out of flight school as an F/A-18D Hornet Weapons Systems Officer stationed in CA.

Thanks to her advocacy in her youth, Lt. Col. Amy McGrath became the 1st woman to fly an F-18 in combat! Throughout her 20 yr military career, Amy McGrath (call sign “Krusty”) flew approx. 2,000 flight hours, flying 89 combat missions between 2 tours in Afghanistan and 1 in Iraq. She earned medals for Meritorious Service, Navy/Marine Corps Commendation, Navy Achievement, 2 Afghan Campaigns and 1 Iraqi Campaign as well as 8 Strike Flight Air Medals and a Presidential Unit Citation.

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Amy later spent some time in the political arena working for the Marine Corps Fellow program at Capitol Hill as a defense and policy affairs advisor to Rep. Susan Davis and as a Marine Corps liaison at the Pentagon. Amy McGrath stated in an interview with Ella Nilsen that her “last assignment was teaching at the US Naval Academy…teaching them government and teaching them elections. Trying to explain to them they are representing a country that is a democracy, led by people of integrity and courage”, but she thought about the 2016 elections and that “it’s no secret that we have been divided as a nation, that our politics are polarized”. This realization lead to Amy’s most recent career change. In 2017, after 20yrs of service, Amy McGrath retired from the Marine Corps but continues her public service to this country by running for political office as the Democratic candidate for Kentucky’s 6th District congressional seat! The seat is currently occupied by Republican, Andy Barr, but Amy believes she has the upperhand during this election because “when you have a fresh face, somebody who’s not steeped in longstanding politics, someone who doesn’t have the baggage of internal politics…those things are a real advantage”. Amy’s campaign video proved people are looking for change by raising $200,000 within 36 hrs of being aired and over $800,000 in total campaign contributions, according to Ella Nilsen’s interview with McGrath. Amy plans to be the change maker the people are asking for.

This female veteran has made great strides for women, for the military, for the state of Kentucky and for her country. We at The Purple Heart Foundation applaud Amy’s efforts and other women like Amy McGrath who lead their life to create a better tomorrow for all of us. Amy’s voice helped make flying in combat possible for herself and all the women that have come after her. So remember the words of former President Barack Obama, “One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city… a state…a nation…the world. Your voice can change the world” so let your voice be heard.

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This photo of Amy McGrath’s billboard advertisement was found tweeted by Amy McGrath on the official Amy McGrath Twitter account on Feb. 21, 2018.   

Amazing Grace

As you may known, March is the month to celebrate and recognize women’s history. The Purple Heart Foundation wanted to take this month to honor some important women veterans and their honorable service throughout our country’s history.

Grace Brewster Murray, better known as Grace Hopper (after marriage) was born in December of 1906 in New York City. She attended Vassar College, studying math and physics. Upon her graduation she attended Yale University, where she received her Masters in mathematics. She did not stop their, Grace continued her studies at Yale to receive a Ph.D. while also teaching at Vassar. In fact, in 1934 she was one of the first woman to receive her Ph.D.

Though she had a successful career, Grace wanted to enlist in the United States Navy during the early part of World War II. Unfortunately she had been rejected. Grace was 34, which had been too old to enlist, additionally her weight and height ratio was also too low. The military also felt her job as a professor as Vassar College was valuable and she should remain in that position. That did not stop her. Grace took a leave of absence from Vassar College and was sworn into the United States Navy Reserve. She was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1944.

Grace’s assignment was at Harvard University to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project. She was one of the first three computer programmers, and was responsible for programming the Mark I. In later years she also helped to develop the Mark II and Mark III. Following the war, Grace was hoping to transfer to active duty, but was once again declined due to her age. Despite that, she remained serving as an officer in the Navy Reserve.

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Who would have thought, at age 60 Grace would be recalled to active duty. She remained with the United States Navy for 19 more years. Grace retired in 1986 at age 79 as not only a Rear Admiral, but as the oldest serving officer in our military. Following her retirement, Grace was awarded the highest non-combat medal by the Department of Defense, the Defense Distinguished Service Medal.

During her lifespan, her talents and accomplishments led her to be awarded forty honorary degrees worldwide, from various universities. Grace was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1991, making her the first female to receive that honor individually. The following year she past away, at the age of 85. You can visit her grave at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Her passing did not mark the end of her accomplishments and honors. In 1997 the United States Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer was named USS Hopper in her honor. In 2016, President Barack Obama honored Grace posthumously with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

It is thanks to hardworking and dedicated service members like Grace Hopper that we are free. Here at the Purple Heart Foundation, we are committed to honoring all of our heroes. It is our goal to make the transformation from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women in uniform, Show your support by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure they continue to receive the support and benefits they deserve.

Colin Powell: A Man of Many Accomplishments

In honor of Black History Month, the Purple Heart Foundation wanted to highlight the incredible and honorable service of Colin Powell, a United States statesman and a retired Four-Star General in the United States Army. On April 5, 1937 in Harlem, New York, Colin Powell was born to two Jamaican immigrants. Growing up and attending high school in the Bronx, Powell did not really have any set plans for his future. Powell began his college career at City College of New York. He studied geology, still unsure of what he wanted to do in life, and where he saw himself. Little did he know, City College was actually where he would find his calling. Colin Powell joined City College’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), where he quickly became his unit’s commander. This experience gave him the structure and life direction he had been missing, and it set him up to have an extremely successful and lengthy military career.

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Colin Powell’s military career is one of great honor. He served in Vietnam, and during his first tour was awarded a Purple Heart, and later a Bronze Star. During his second tour of duty and despite injuries sustained during a helicopter crash, Powell was able to rescue fellow soldiers from the burning helicopter. This incident resulted in him becoming a recipient for the Soldier’s Medal. In fact, Powell has received 11 military decorations.

Powell went on to further his education, receiving an MBA at George Washington University. This brought him to a White House fellowship, and an assignment to Office of Management and Budget in 1972. The year after his fellowship, Colonel Powell served a tour of duty in Korea. He then landed a job a the Pentagon. Powell was later promoted to Brigadier General and commanded the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. Powell acted as an assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Energy during the Carter Administration. He was once again promoted, this time to Major General. Additionally, Powell assisted Frank Carlucci at the Department of Defense during the time of the transition from the Carter Administration to the Reagan Administration. Later he served as Senior Military Aide to Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger. Then, in 1987 Colin Powell became the National Security Adviser, and remained in that position until the end of the Reagan Administration.

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As if all of this is not impressive enough, in 1989 President George H. W. Bush appointed General Colin Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Not only is this post the highest military position in the Department of Defense, Powell was also the first African-American officer to receive such distinction.

After Powell retired from the Army in 1993 his service did not stop. Only a short year later he joined with former President Jimmy Carter on a successful peacekeeping expedition to Haiti. It does not stop there, Powell then published an autobiography and went on to becoming a the chairman of a nonprofit organization. Then, in 2001, President George W. Bush appointed Colin Powell as the Secretary of State. At the time Powell was appointed to this position, this was the highest rank in civilian government that had ever been held by an African-American.

A young boy, once lost without plans for the future or an idea of life direction developed into a hero, leader and an inspiration. Colin Powell was not given any advances or special treatment as he began his military career, it was who he was. He was committed and passionate about our country and specifically his service to our country. It is men and women with those shared  qualities that serve this country and keep us safe. Here at the Purple Heart Foundation, we are committed to honoring all of our heroes. It is our goal to make the transformation from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women in uniform, Show your support by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure they continue to receive the support and benefits they deserve.

Henry Johnson: The Story of an Unsung Hero

As you know, February is recognized as Black History Month. This is an opportunity to reflect on all of the brave African-American men and women throughout our country’s history. As the Purple Heart Foundation is a veteran service organization, we wanted to reflect on African-American military service throughout history. Specifically one man, Henry Johnson. Henry Johnson may not be a familiar name, but he courageously served this country and was a true hero.

Henry Johnson was born in July of 1892 in North Carolina, later moving to New York. On June 5, 1917, Johnson enlisted in the United States Military. He has originally joined the all-black New York National Guard (369th Infantry Regiment). He later served as a United States Army sergeant in the First African American Unit of the U.S. Army that engaged in combat during the first world war.

Prior to serving as a sergeant, Johnson and the 369th Infantry joined the 185th Infantry Brigade in France. Exactly one year following Johnson’s enlistment, the 185th Infantry Brigade he was with was assigned to the 93rd Infantry Division. Due to apparent racism and disinterest of the white U.S. soldiers, those who had made up the 369th were “loaned” out to the French Army. As Johnson continued to serve, his bravery was more than apparent.

While serving on sentry duty for his company in the Argonne Forest. He ended up fighting off a large German raiding party which was attempting to break through the line. Despite suffering 21 wounds, Johnson was able to kill 4 German soldiers, wound many others, and rescue a wounded comrade. Word of his courageous actions traveled quickly. The French government awarded Johnson the Croix de Guerre, which at the time was France’s high award for bravery. Henry Johnson was the first American to have received it. Following those events and the entirety of his service, Johnson has been referred to as one of the five bravest Americans to have served in World War I by Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.

Johnson in 1919, wearing his French Croix de Guerre. Note, too, the two wound chevrons on his lower right sleeve.

It’s extremely unfortunate that racism and mistreatment of African Americans were so prevalent during the time of Henry Johnson’s incredible service. There was an arduous struggle to achieve U.S. military decorations for Johnson. Interest in obtaining proper recognition for Johnson grew greatly after the fact. In November of 1992, a monument was erected in his honor in Albany, New York. Johnson was awarded the Purple Heart in June of 1996. A few years later, in 2003, Johnson was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s second highest award for valor. On May 14th of 2015, the White House announced that Sergeant Johnson would receive the Medal of Honor. Former President Barack Obama presented this medal, stating “The least we can do is to say, ‘We know who you are, we know what you did for us. We are forever grateful.

That is absolutely true. We remember who you are, Henry Johnson. We recognize the heroism and bravery that you embodied as you served this country. And, we are forever grateful for your service. It is thanks to the dedication of brave men and women, such as Henry Johnson, that we are free. Here at the Purple Heart Foundation, we are committed to honoring all of our heroes. It is our goal to make the transformation from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women in uniform, Show your support by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure they continue to receive the support and benefits they deserve.