GOP Rep. Paul Cook, a Marine veteran who served for 26 years, wants to make it illegal to buy or sell Purple Hearts.
Cook introduced legislation last Thursday to ban the practice of selling the military honors given to servicemembers wounded or killed in combat, Military Times reports.
If the bill were to become law, collectors who refuse to comply could face fines and up to six months of prison.
But right now, while the practice is still legal, retailers are raking in the dollars. Purple Hearts, the oldest military award in the U.S., can each go for hundreds of dollars, and that amount increases if it can be shown who originally earned that particular Purple Heart.
“These military collectors cheapen the Purple Heart by buying and selling this symbol of sacrifice like a pack of baseball cards,” Cook said.
Cook earned two Purple Hearts while serving in the Vietnam War.
“I’m committed to defending our veterans and that means preserving their symbols of honor like the Purple Heart. These medals belong with families or in museums, not on some collector’s auction block,” Cook said.
The difference between Cook’s new bill and legislation in the past is that the new bill goes after collectors, not just con artists purchasing the honors and then claiming they themselves earned them.
Cook’s idea has found support from Hershel Gober, national commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
“Purple Hearts that are lost or stolen belong with veterans and their survivors, period — not floating around on the collectors’ market,” said Hershel Gober, according to Military Times.
The legislation is strict enough not to even carve out any exceptions for veterans who want to sell their own Purple Hearts. Additionally, their family members may not sell the Purple Hearts, either, which would slot the award into the same category as the Medal of Honor.
It’s illegal under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to buy or sell a Medal of Honor. Anyone caught doing so could spend up to a year in jail and expect up to a $100,000 fine.
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