Forty-Eight Stars and a Purple Heart

America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand. — Harry S. Truman


By D. Myles Cullen — This image was released by the United States Air Force with the ID 081117-F-019

“Grandma”, I said excitedly, “look at the pretty purple pin I found!”

It was a rainy afternoon and I was rifling through the closet in search of something interesting when I found this unique item. Purple was my favorite color as a child, so this particular prize caught my eye right away.

Grandma gently took the newly discovered treasure from my little hands. She stared at it for a long moment and then looked at me wistfully.

“Don’t you think it’s pretty, Grandma?” I said hesitantly, picking up on something in her gaze.

“Well, yes, it’s pretty, but it’s also very special,” she said as she took my hand and led me to our special place — a big Quaker style rocking chair where she spent many hours neglecting housework in favor of cuddling me.

“This is a very special treasure,” Grandma began. “It’s a Purple Heart medal from the Army of the United States. It was given in honor of Grandpa’s brother, James.”

“Did I ever meet James, Grandma?”

“No, he died before you were born. James was very brave. He fought in a very long war, very far away. And he died there. They gave this medal to his mother after he died so she would know how brave he was.”

“She must have been sad, Grandma.”

“Well, yes, she was very sad, but she was also very proud. She was proud because he was courageous and he died fighting for America, so that all of us can be safe and free.”

“I’m proud too Grandma. Can I keep this, to remember James?”

“Yes, but remember it’s not a toy.”

That night I put the medal on my dresser and I included James in my bedtime prayers.

About a week later Grandma brought me a folded up American flag. “Keep this with the medal,” she instructed. “it was the flag that they put on James’ coffin. American soldiers have a flag draped on their casket to honor their service.”



Donna L Roberts, PhD (Psych Pstuff)

Writer and university professor researching the human condition, generational studies, human and animal rights, and the intersection of art and psychology