Senator Boxer: Defense Agrees to Change Purple Heart Rules   

Thursday, September 6, 2007  

I have been working to have the eligibility requirements for the Purple Heart changed. In 2005, I introduced the “Honor Our Fallen Prisoners of War Act,” legislation to expand eligibility of the Purple Heart to all POWs who die in captivity. I am very pleased to let you know that the Department of Defense has finally agreed and is recommending that the President expand eligibility for the Purple Heart to all prisoners of war who die in captivity, regardless of the cause of death.

Currently, only POWs who die during their imprisonment of wounds inflicted by an instrument of war meet the criteria for posthumous Purple Heart recognition. Those who die of starvation, disease, or other causes during captivity do not.

In a letter to the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Under Secretary of Defense David Chu stated that the Department advised changing the Purple Heart eligibility criteria to include all POWs who die in captivity.

I am so pleased that the Defense Department has finally agreed that Purple Heart eligibility should be expanded to include all prisoners of war who died in captivity. General George Washington wrote that we should honor with the Purple Heart “not only instances of unusual gallantry but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service.” Those brave Americans who paid the ultimate sacrifice as prisoners of war should be eligible for this honor. I hope the President will act swiftly on the Defense Department’s recommendation—the families of our fallen POWs deserve no less.

Thousands of prisoners of war have died since the start of World War II. It is fitting that we honor their memory with the Purple Heart.


Barbara Boxer, US Senator, California
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer