My Dad was 17 when he enlisted in the Navy (he lied about his age). During WWII he was in the gun turret on board an escort ship when it was hit. He was wounded, patched up and went back for duty. This second ship was hit and again he was wounded – but this time he was in and out of hospitals for a year trying to get a crushed ankle mended.
I remember the day my sister Jean and I were in his basement hobby room in Florida (he used to facet stones and make jewelry before his hands began to shake). He opened the bottom drawer of his table and took out two military boxes – each containing a Purple Heart pin. He said to me “here take these and do something with them – they’re not doing any good sitting in the bottom of my drawer”. His attitude was one of the pins not being important. I later found out that he had had them gold plated. Hmmmmm – did I mention my Dad is a fraud 😉 I had never seen a Purple Heart up close and was honored that he gave them to me.
I used to wear business suits and my focus at that time was beading and making jewelry. I disassembled the Purple Heart and sewed it to the foundation. Unobtrusive embellishments were glued on and beading was added (approx size 2″ top to tip of heart x 2 1/4″ wide). The Purple Heart can be extracted from the foundation and reassembled to it’s original state without any damage or change (it sits, not glued, in the wire/chain cradle).
The reactions at that time to my wearing this pin were interesting. From “it’s wonderful – I’ve never seen a Purple Heart up close” to “how do you feel wearing a Purple Heart you didn’t earn”. Honestly, I was proud to wear my Father’s pin – it gave me an opportunity to talk about it and tell folks his experiences during the War. I wouldn’t wear it now – there are a lot more current day examples of the wounded with Purple Hearts that I think this Country is well aware of what a Purple Heart looks like and what it represents. This pin is going in my Dad’s memory box along side a picture of him in his Cracker Jacks (I wore them when I was in the Navy too).