The Purple Heart

One snowy cold Alaska winter our family took a vacation to Hawaii. It was wonderful. Bright blue skies with warm soft ocean breezes and warm water at the sandy beaches. One day as we were swimming at the beach I noticed that my 15 year old son had a 1/3 of an inch scar on the front of his shoulder. Since he was so tan it showed up like a neon sign. Where in the world did he get that scar? He hesitated. I insisted. He agreed to tell me now that his oldest brother was safely off on his mission. What follows is the story of the Purple Heart which has become a family legend.

My oldest son loved living in Alaska. It was his kind of place. Lots of wilderness, not a lot of people, plenty of opportunities for him to practice his survival skills, which he did every chance he got. He built an igloo in the backyard and practically lived in it all winter. He would head off into the woods and build shelters and lean-to’s, tree stands and hide outs.  He wore camouflage or army fatigues every time he went outside. He wanted to be a Special Forces operative in the worst way and he was going to see that no skill was left unlearned. This included learning how to throw a knife and having it stick in a tree.

As he was practicing his knife throwing skills one afternoon, his eight year old brother happened to wonder up. He watched as Spencer threw the knife and each time it would stick in the tree and then he would retrieve it and throw it again. Matt said he wanted to try throwing it too. Spencer said no, he was too young and not allowed to touch his knives- Mom said. Matt pointed out that Spencer was not allowed to throw his knife into the tree either- Mom said. But, if Spencer would let him throw it then he wouldn’t tell Mom what he was doing. Spencer reluctantly agreed and handed him the knife.

Matt was four years younger than Spencer so when he threw the knife he couldn’t even get the knife close to the tree so he stepped closer…  and closer. Finally, using all his effort he threw it and hit the tree. The knife bounced off the tree and flew back at Matt.  Matt looked at the knife sticking into the front of his shoulder and watched it slowly fall to the ground. He freaked out. Spencer freaked out. If Mom found out that Matt had a knife stuck in his shoulder he would lose his precious knife. You can’t survive in the wilderness without a good knife! But if his dad found out, he’d be dead.

So Spencer quickly told Matt, who was heading for the house to find Mom, that if Mom found out he had been touching Spencer’s knives he would be in big trouble. Matt pointed out that it was Spencer’s fault for letting him touch it in the first place. Spencer thought fast and came up with a plan. He whipped out his fanny pack survival kit he never went anywhere without and said he knew exactly what to do. "Remember! I’m a Special Forces Op and I can fix anything".

Spencer hustled Matt into their bedroom where they found another brother, Ben. Ben wanted to know what was going on. Spencer told him to be quiet and then helped Matt take off his shirt. There was a nice slit in Matt’s shoulder and it was bleeding. Spencer asked Matt if he wanted him to sew it up. Matt declined the offer so Spencer doctored him up using his med kit. Matt cried and sniffled the whole time. When Spencer was done patching him up, Matt got up to leave. He was still going to tell Mom.

Spencer again thought fast. Matt had obviously been wounded in combat he said, and therefore deserved the Purple Heart. He would get him one, and he and Ben would have a ceremony and present it to him.  It would be cool. He would be the only one in the family to have one. Sniffling, Matt reluctantly agreed. Spencer raced to the garage where he found his dad’s collection of Skiing medals and trophies, found one with a dark blue, almost purple ribbon and raced back. Then he and Ben ceremoniously gave Matt the Purple Heart with full honors.  After the ceremony, Spencer solemnly explained that people who receive the Purple Heart never talk about it because it diminished the honor of the medal and makes it common place. Purple Hearts are too special an honor to go blabbing that one has one. It’s a secret club. Spencer was able to convince them both not to tell.

Their sister claims that this never happened because she never heard about it.  The three boys claim it did and Matt has the scar to prove it. Ben and Matt say Spencer has the gift of persuasion and it worked so well on them they never told another soul until I found Matt’s scar.  Spencer is now in his late 20’s and is a top salesman in his company. He tells everyone he honed his skills conning his brothers. I think he might be right.


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- Dana