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House Approves Bill to Include Spouses in Military Order of the Purple Heart

On November 6, the House passed, by voice vote, a bill (H.R. 1119) to amend the congressional charter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (36 U.S.C. §140503(b)) to include spouses. Currently, the Order extends associate membership to “parents and lineal descendants” of a Purple Heart recipient. The House Judiciary Committee approved the legislation on August 2; the Senate passed a similar bill (S. 743) on March 1.

Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA), the bill’s sponsor, said, “Mr. Speaker, I was honored for the opportunity to introduce the Purple Heart Equity Act along with [Rep.] Virginia Foxx [(R-NC)], Minority Whip Roy Blunt [(R-MO)], [Rep.] John Murtha [(D-PA)], and a number of other bipartisan sponsors. We came together, and this is a unanimous bill because honoring the women who have won the Purple Heart is something that we can all stand behind.” Rep. Davis continued, “…[T]he Military Order of the Purple Heart [was] formed with the mission of fostering a positive environment among wounded veterans, as well as providing services to all veterans and their families. But when the organization was federally chartered in 1958, few women actually had won the Purple Heart. So, under the current law, male members today can invite their wives to join the Ladies Auxiliary of the Purple Heart, but there is no place in this organization for the husbands of female members. So that’s why H.R. 1119 is important today, because it adds the word “spouses” to the federal charter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. And with this small update, the husbands of female members will have the option of joining the organization just as the wives do.”

She added, “Just a little bit more history, Mr. Speaker. The first woman to be awarded the Purple Heart was Lieutenant Annie G. Fox, after she was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Since then, the Military Order of the Purple Heart has identified at least 97 female Purple Heart recipients who have joined the organization. It has been 66 years since Lieutenant Fox earned the award, and now it is time, certainly time, that we act to fully honor the courageous women who are bestowed with the Purple Heart. H.R. 1119 honors and recognizes these brave women and future recipients of the Purple Heart. This is the least, certainly, we can do for the women who sacrifice for our country.”

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