If you're just joining this political race, you should know things are not looking good. In a speech earlier this week, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump joked about how he "always wanted" a Purple Heart, saying it was "much easier" to get it from someone who supported his bid for the White House than to earn it by any real merit.
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," according to The Military Order of the Purple Heart.
This comment did not inspire hope in a lot of people, especially United States Army veteran and Dancing with the Stars winner J.R. Martinez, who won his own Purple Heart in 2003.
“I am a proud post-9/11 U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient,” he wrote in an open letter to Trump, published Wednesday on Mic.com. “When I first joined the military, like many other service members, I had dreams of serving valiantly and one day receiving many military accolades in service of our great nation. I can tell you without equivocation that the one award I did not want to receive was a Purple Heart, but I got one anyway. And I'll tell you now, I didn't get mine the easy way.”
At only 33 years old, Martinez survived a humvee explosion in Iraq. The humvee hit a roadside bomb, burning 34% of his body. He has since undergone 34 surgeries.
“I came home with a Purple Heart recipient, but my mother knew that we were only a few heartbeats away from giving her a new designation — a Gold Star,” he wrote.
To paraphrase the beginning of Martinez's letter, politics and military decisions should not be mixed, and these kinds of lines should never be crossed. Receiving a Purple Heart is a recognition of sacrifice. It is an honor that comes at a price, and we're not talking about a critical hit to your bank account.
"I respectfully suggest you get a primer on the word sacrifice," the end of Martinez's letter reads, "as well as a lesson in human decency."
Read Martinez's full letter here.