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Army veteran forced to pay $21 C.O.D. for own Purple Heart medal

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Rob Dickerson, a retired Sgt. Major who served twenty-nine years in the U.S. Army, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was severely wounded in Iraq in 2007 while serving as a reservist advisor to Iraqi soldiers. A rocket had exploded in Dickerson's vicinity, causing him numerous injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, and all the Iraqi soldiers with him at the time were killed.

As a soldier wounded while in action, Dickerson had a richly deserved Purple Heart medal coming to him, the protocol of which entails a U.S. medic issuing the injured soldier a Casualty Feeder Card, which passes up the chain of command, notifying them of American casualties. In Dickerson's case, no American medic was present, so he ended up spending two years pursuing his medal, which he was finally granted in 2009. And this is where the story gets shameful and disgusting.

Sgt. Major Dickerson's Purple Heart was shipped to his home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in August of 2009, with no ceremony, and a shipping invoice for about twenty-one dollars handed to him by a FedEx deliveryman. In an email, Army spokesman Troy Rolan said, "The normal practice is to send the award to the soldiers [sic] unit…It would be up to the unit or Congressional office to coordinate a ceremony. Unknown why the soldier was charged postage for shipping."

Dickerson initially refused to pay the C.O.D., and rightfully so. He was re-billed a week later, paid it, then informed Army officials of the snafu. The Army sent an apology, and a money order in the way of reimbursement. But get this, another two years have passed, and Dickerson has been unable to cash the money order because it's made out to Roy Dirksen!

One might laugh at such a comedy of errors if it wasn't so damned pathetic. I'm very proud of, and grateful to, all the men and women of the armed forces who have served and defended our country in the past, and continue to do so in the present. And that can never be a cliche. Dickerson said, "When I was a Sgt. Major, I double-checked and triple-checked everything. Mistakes happen. This happened — so resolve it."