By Pablo Jaime Sainz
Carlos Quintana, 85, received the Purple Heart after he was wounded in the Pacific front during World War II.
Although he feels very proud of having received the Purple Heart, he said that many soldiers who have died as prisoners of war also deserve the recognition.
“Just to think about how they were tortured, how they were wounded psychologically... They trully deserve the Purple Heart,” he said.
Currently, the Purple Heart is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. Prisoners of war in captivity who died of beatings, starvation, freezing and other causes are left out.
On Tuesday, February 21, Congressman Bob Filner and Senator Barbara Boxer held a press conference with citizens and representatives from leading veterans’ organizations to announce the introduction of S. 2157, Senator Boxer’s bill, “Honor Our Fallen Prisoners of War Act.”
This legislation is a companion to Congressman Filner’s bill, H.R. 2369, and would provide Purple Heart status to all prisoners of war who died in captivity.
“There should be no distinction indicating more courage or more sacrifice by those who die as a POW and those who die on the battlefield,” Filner said.
S. 2157 and H.R. 2369, will award the Purple Heart posthumously to all prisoners of war who died in captivity, no matter what the cause of their deaths. “Only those who have been prisoners of war can know the magnitude of this,” Boxer said.
Filner said that there’s a growing number of co-sponsors of his bill in the House of Representatives, 165 with more being added each day.
The measure will be retroactive to December 7, 1941. About 17,000 soldiers will be recognized if the measure is aproved. The number of La-tinos who would receive the award is unknown at this time, but it is estimated it will be high.
“55 years ago I was a prisoner of war in North Korea. More than half of the 835 men who were with me there died as POWs. They weren’t recognized for their sacrifices. We’re here to correct this injustice and to try to award them the Purple Heart,” said Wilbert “Shorty” Estabrook, who was a prisoner of war during the Korean War.
If this measure if approved, at least two San Diegans will receive the Purple Heart: Fred Dennis Chesnut and Eugene Morelli.
After the press conference, Boxer awarded U.S. flags that were flown in her office in Washington, D.C., to several veterans organizations in San Diego.
“We’re going to bring home victory for all of you,” said Filner to the veterans present as the press conference ended.
The event took place at the Veterans Museum & Memorial Center, in Balboa Park.