WINNER OF THE MARINE CORPS HERITAGE FOUNDATION JAMES WEBB AWARD
How Can You Mend This Purple Heart is a riveting story of the physical, emotional and mental struggles of war-ravaged young boys. “Purple Heart” is a no-holds-barred, powerful and compassionate portrayal of young Americans who returned from the Vietnam War to the comforting and healing shelter of a military hospital; wounded, frightened and proud.
The hospital, and the nearby streets and bars of south Philadelphia, become their home; and like any home, it serves as a place to gather, to belong, to struggle, to find support and ultimately, a place to heal. And every day of healing would bring them closer to the day they could go home. A day they would cherish--and fear.
“There are not many books that can make you laugh and also make you cry—sometimes laughing through sorrow and crying out of joy—but Terry has crafted such a story. I dare you not to fall in love with every character, and I dare you not to come away from this story wanting to hug every soldier you meet. I don’t think you’ll be able to do it.”
Jennifer Lea Lopez, author of Sorry is Not Enough and Confessions of a Non-Believer and Daughter of a Vietnam Veteran.
Lance Corporal Felix Dante Jamnitzky came into my life one night in late May, 1969, sometime after midnight. Two Navy corpsmen wheeled his hospital bed into the slot next to mine on Ward 2B, U.S. Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, PA
“Ski” had just undergone surgery to reset the steel rods holding the bottom half of his legs together. Fresh bandages seeped with blood from the shrapnel wounds to his hips, thighs and torso. A trinket-size piece of shrapnel had knocked out his two front teeth. Ski turned to me with a toothless grin and a gleam in his eyes and I knew at that moment our friendship was going to be special
I had come from a party with a girl on my lap; he had come from Vietnam with a bomb under his feet. Yet he never once belittled my circumstances nor spoke a condescending word to me or about me. He would, and did, defend me against other wounded Marines who questioned my right to even share the same ward space with them.
The day the doctors wheeled Ski off the ward for surgery to amputate his right leg, we shook hands, he smiled that trademark toothless smile and with the courage only a few possess he said to me, “A Marine is always ready”. I let go of his hand and covered my face with the bed sheet, not wanting anyone to see the tears that I could not stop.
We gave each other comfort when needed, advice when asked for and an unconditional loyalty to each other that no one dare challenge. Over the course of the next year-and-a-half, Ski and I would share life-changing experiences others can only imagine.
Ski was my best friend, a confidant, a drinking buddy, a “brother” and the inspiration for me to write How Can You Mend This Purple Heart. His optimism, humor, courage and loyalty to his family and friends and the Marine Corps are qualities that still inspire me to this day. I miss him dearly.