Purple Heart for a 'Broken Toenail?' Democrat Says Yes

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - A Democratic congressional candidate from Pennsylvania, allied with anti-war critic U.S. Rep. John Murtha, Wednesday insisted that in terms of the qualifications for receiving a Purple Heart in the military, "it matters not whether it's a broken toenail or a slug to the brain."

Phil Avillo, a veteran himself and candidate for Pennsylvania's 19th House District, was defending Murtha, whose past military service, especially the awarding of his two Purple Hearts, was questioned by several political opponents earlier this year. At the time, Murtha was attracting national attention for his criticism of the Bush administration's strategy in the Iraq war.

It "should make no difference what part of a soldier's body is wounded in combat," Avillo said, and those who "castigate and cheapen" the military medal are "weasels" and "snakes in the grass."

"Congressman Murtha wears proudly the Purple Heart," which "is something that people get because they put their life on the line for this country," Avillo added during a news conference in Washington, D.C.

"What difference does it make where your Purple Heart comes from?" asked Avillo, whose left leg was amputated above the knee after he was wounded in Vietnam. "A nick in the hand? A nick to your carotid artery kills you. Who's going to discriminate between wounds?"

Regardless of whether a serviceman or woman sustains "a broken toenail" or a "slug to the brain," Avillo argued, "you are equally wounded, and you have served this country proudly and well. And we have to honor all Americans who have served and all Americans who have been wounded."

Ray Funderburk, public relations director for the Military Order of the Purple Heart, told Cybercast News Service that Arvillo "took a little liberal license with the broken toenail business."

"What he's saying is that someone determined in the past that an individual merited a Purple Heart and was awarded the same, then we have to honor that," Funderburk said, though he added that "a broken toenail is kind of pushing it."

According to the organization's website, the Purple Heart "is awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration."

Funderburk noted that Arvillo "was probably angry when he made those statements, and he took a little liberal license with the broken toenail business because that probably would not merit a Purple Heart."

"But I can see where he's coming from," he added. "The guy gave his leg for his country, and he's proud of his medal."

See Earlier Story:
Murtha: 'Everything I've Said Has Been Right' About Iraq (Sept. 28, 2006)

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