Defense Department creates civilian purple heart

The Defense Department has created a new medal for Defense civilians killed or injured in the recent terrorist hijackings.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday that the new Defense of Freedom Medal is the civilian equivalent of the military's purple heart, which is awarded to uniformed personnel killed or injured in battle. Defense civilians injured or killed as the result of future hostile actions while supporting the department will also be eligible for the award, he added.

Charles Abell, assistant secretary of Defense for force management, said 90 medals had been ordered for Defense civilians killed at the Pentagon, the World Trade Center towers and aboard the hijacked airliners. Additional civilian medal winners are likely to be identified as injury reports are updated, Abell added.

Civilians working for contractors in support of Defense operations who were injured or killed also are eligible for the award. The Defense Secretary will review such awards on a case-by-case basis, Abell added.

The medal is a gold medallion whose front side features a bald eagle holding a shield with the words "Defense of Freedom" above it. On the back, the medallion says "On Behalf of a Grateful Nation" and has a space for engraving the civilian's name, just above a laurel wreath, which represents honor and high achievement.

The medal hangs from a red, white and blue ribbon. The ribbon's four red stripes-one for each of the hijacked planes-signify valor and sacrifice. A single, wide blue stripe on the ribbon signifies strength and represents the attack on the Pentagon. The ribbon's white stripes symbolize liberty.

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