I am currently putting the finishing touches on a number of sculptures, and one of them is a larger-than-life representation of the Purple Heart, which has recently been cast in bronze. The Purple Heart is bestowed upon individuals who have been wounded or killed as a result of enemy action, an international terrorist attack, or while serving as part of a peacekeeping mission.
To create this Purple Heart bronze sculpture, I meticulously measured an original Purple Heart as my reference. The sculpture stands at a height of three feet, making it approximately nine times larger than the original. Instead of using the Purple Heart’s portrait of George Washington, which I believe does not capture his likeness well, I looked to a renowned stone bust of Washington to ensure a more accurate depiction of his features. By scaling up the sculpture, our intention was to create a closer emotional connection. The sculpture is intended to be mounted on a wall as a tribute to Purple Heart recipients.
War is a devastating reality. Lives are lost, and families are torn apart. However, as citizens of this great nation, we must acknowledge that our cherished freedoms have been and will continue to be defended by the courageous men and women of our armed forces. It is important that we always express our gratitude for their sacrifice.
In memory of Dave Betti
This sculpture, along with all my military sculptures, is a tribute to my late father. Dave Betti, a Vietnam veteran, spent the last decade of his life dedicated to assisting fellow service members in obtaining veteran benefits. He tirelessly advocated for veteran rights in Ventura County, California, serving as the President of the Vietnam Veterans of Ventura County for numerous years. Surprisingly, this aspect of my father’s life was seldom discussed. During his funeral service, which included a flyover and military honors, I witnessed the immense scale of his efforts and profound passion for aiding our veterans. Many veterans shared personal anecdotes of how my father had positively impacted their lives. This revelation was a significant eye-opener for me. To my amazement, I later discovered that every veteran in the county had attended his service. I firmly believe that each military sculpture I create embodies a part of my father, as inspired by the stories I heard both at his service and throughout the years.
A brief history of the Purple Heart
Purple Heart Day, observed on August 7, is a time when the country collectively pauses to acknowledge and remember the courageous sacrifices made by the members of our military. The Purple Heart medal is given to service members who have been injured or killed as a result of enemy action while serving in the U.S. armed forces. It is a solemn honor that signifies a service member’s immense sacrifice or ultimate sacrifice while fulfilling their duty.
Since its establishment in 1782, over 1.8 million Purple Heart medals have been awarded to deserving individuals, thanks to Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur. In 1932, MacArthur collaborated with the Washington Commission of Fine Arts and heraldry specialist Elizabeth Will to modernize and rename the medal, coinciding with the bicentennial celebration of George Washington’s birthday.
Originally, the revived Purple Heart medal depicted the likeness of George Washington and was primarily intended as a decoration for the Army or Army Air Corps in recognition of commendable action and those injured or killed in combat. During that period, it was not permissible to award the Purple Heart posthumously or to the recipient’s family. In 1942, President Roosevelt and the War Department further clarified the criteria for receiving the Purple Heart, specifying that it should be awarded to those wounded or killed in action. They also extended the eligibility of the medal to include all branches of the military and authorized the presentation of posthumous Purple Heart medals. Over the years, the eligibility requirements for the Purple Heart have undergone changes and continue to evolve even today.