Vandenbosch says that he refuses to sell the Purple Heart to anyone but the prior owner. He will not disclose how much he paid for it.HOLLAND, Mich. -- Pawn shops are big business this time of year, thanks to the holidays and tough economic times. However, one particular West Michigan store is generating buzz over a small treasure many consider priceless.
As owner of A-Z Outlet in Holland, Bryan Vandenbosch has purchased a lot of electronics, jewelry, and tools, but after almost 19 years in business, he bought something he never expected -- a Purple Heart, a medal awarded to U.S. troops wounded in battle. This one was earned in Afghanistan in May 2010.
"[The Soldier had] been in here the week [before Thanksgiving]," says Vandenbosch. "He brought it in the following week, I purchased it from him, and put it on display."
Vandenbosch says the active-duty Soldier, on leave from Afghanistan, was reluctant to sell the medal at first, but like a lot of people, he needed a little extra cash for the holiday season. So, the Soldier gave up one of his two Purple Hearts -- something he almost gave his life to get.
As word began to spread about the medal, Vandenbosch says the phone has been ringing off the hook with people wanting to help.
"I have people that have walked in already this morning that have asked me 'Hey, how much did you pay for it? I'll pay for it so he can get it back,' " he says.
Prior to the creation of the Badge of Military Merit in 1782, it was common practice to honor only generals for their victories, not the common soldiers. The Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, General George Washington writes:
The General ever desirous to cherish virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species of Military merit, directs that whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings over the left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth, or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding. Not only instances of unusual gallantry, but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with a due reward. Before this favour can be conferred on any man, the particular fact, or facts, on which it is to be grounded must be set forth to the Commander in chief accompanied with certificates from the Commanding officers of the regiment and brigade to which the Candadate for reward belonged, or other incontestable proofs, and upon granting it, the name and regiment of the person with the action so certified are to be enrolled in the book of merit which will be kept at the orderly office. Men who have merited this last distinction to be suffered to pass all guards and sentinals which officers are permitted to do. The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all. This order is also to have retrospect to the earliest stages of the war, and to be considered as a permanent one.
The original Purple Heart, the Military Badge of Merit.
Today's Purple Heart was designed by John R. Sinnock of the Philadelphia Mint in 1931 and is awarded to those who have been wounded or killed while serving in the US military on or after April 5, 1917. By Executive Order of the President, the Purple Heart was instituted on the 200th anniversary of George Washington's birthday, 22 February 1932.