Pentagon Considers Awarding Purple Hearts For Psychological Wounds... WASHINGTON -- Centuries before Iraq and Afghanistan, George Washington created the Purple Heart to honor troops wounded in combat. Matthew Leake But with an increasing number of troops being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the modern military is debating an idea Gen. Washington never considered -- awarding one of the nation's top military citations to veterans with psychological wounds, not just physical ones. Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered cautious support for such a change on a trip to a military base in Texas this month. "It's an interesting idea," Mr. Gates said in response to a question. "I think it is clearly something that needs to be looked at." The Pentagon says it isn't formally considering a change in policy at this point, but Mr. Gates's comments sparked a heated debate on military blogs, message boards and email lists. The dispute reflects a broader question roiling the military: Can psychological traumas, no matter how debilitating, be considered equivalent to dismembering physical wounds? Supporters of awarding the Purple Heart to veterans with PTSD believe the move would reduce the stigma that surrounds the disorder and spur more soldiers and Marines to seek help without fear of limiting their careers. The High Price Paid "These guys have paid at least as high a price, some of them, as anybody with a traumatic brain injury, as anybody with a shrapnel wound," John Fortunato, who runs a military PTSD treatment facility in Texas, told reporters recently. Absent a policy change, Dr. Fortunato told reporters, troops will mistakenly believe that PTSD is a "wound that isn't worthy." Opponents argue that the Purple Heart should be reserved for physical injuries, as has been the case since the medal was reinstituted by Congress in 1932. Military regulations say the award should go to troops with injuries "received in action with an enemy." Some opponents also note that PTSD can be faked, which can't easily be done with a physical wound. "The Purple Heart was meant to be a badge of honor to show you were wounded in battle," says Bob Mackey, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who fought in the first and second Iraq wars. "I've been in combat three times. There's stuff I've had to deal with. But it's substantially different from being physically hurt." The biggest difference, he says, is that some veterans may be diagnosed with PTSD even if they never saw combat or fought an enemy -- requirements, historically, for receiving a Purple Heart.