Rep. Paul Cook: “The Purple Heart is … not a collector’s item,” Reintroduces Legislation

By on June 26, 2019
Purple Heart Day

Rep. Paul Cook (R-8th District-Apple Valley) has reintroduced HR 2911, the Private Corrado Piccoli Purple Heart Preservation Act, intended to prohibit the sale of any Purple Heart medal presented by the government to a wounded servicemember or the servicemember’s family. Rep. Cook originally introduced the legislation in 2016.

HR 2911 is named for Private Corrado Piccoli, a WWII infantryman killed in action in 1944. A Purple Heart medal accompanied the telegram informing Private Piccoli’s family of his death. Sadly, the medal was lost years later and after Private Piccoli’s parents’ passing.

In 2011, Army Captain Zachariah Fike discovered the lost medal. He researched the name engraved on the medal, returned it to Private Piccoli’s surviving siblings. Afterwards, an inspired Captain Fike founded Purple Hearts Reunited, an organization that has returned over 600 Purple Hearts and rescued more than 1000 since its establishment.

Purple Hearts Reunited, with a tag line of “Earned through valor, lost by circumstance, reunited with dignity” works to return lost, stolen and misplaced military medals of valor to veterans or their families, in order to honor their sacrifice to the nation. Military collectors often acquire Purple Hearts, sometimes through underhanded means, and resell them as collectable items. As veterans or their survivors pass away, dozens of these Purple Hearts become lost every year and find their way into pawn shops, secondhand stores and estate sales.

These medals can sell for hundreds and even thousands of dollars on the collectors’ market. Purple Hearts Reunited and other groups work tirelessly to rescue these medals and return them to their rightful families. The profiteering actions of military collectors make this task even more difficult as medals find their way onto the market and away from their rightful places of honor.

“The Purple Heart is a symbol of sacrifice and heroism awarded to those who were killed or wounded in combat,” said Rep. Cook, himself wounded twice in combat. “It’s not a collector’s item. Profiteering from re-sale of the Purple Heart medal has to stop. The fact that this market exists cheapens the sacrifice of the service members who earned them. The best way to preserve the honor of our veterans is to ensure that the medals end up with whom they belong: the families of those who earned them.”

Rep. Cook earned two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star during his combat years. He is now a member of the House Natural Resources and Armed Services committees. Rep. Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years of service after having attained the rank of a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is Yucaipa’s U.S. Congressman.