Endorsements on the Audie Murphy Presidential Medal of Freedom Petition read like a VIP address book. Distinguished Americans such as Melvin Laird, Bob Dole, General Tommy Franks, Charlie Duke, Toby Keith, Dan Rather, Barbara Eden and countless others too numerous to mention.
In addition to those named above, three-fourths of the 79 living Medal of Honor recipients have offered forth their endorsements.
Finally, representing service over seven decades to America, nearly 100 generals and admirals have endorsed the petition. These flag officers represent every branch of service and level of command of the armed forces to include two former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Each has personally hand signed the petition.
A final tribute for Major Audie Murphy
These prominent citizens have united with the common goal of honoring this legendary American soldier with one last final tribute.
Thousands of ordinary citizens from across the country and around the world have joined those notable distinguished Americans in signing the online version of the petition hosted on the website ipetitions as well as on the Audie Murphy Memorial website.
America’s highest civilian honor
The petition, directed to the President of the United States, requests that the late Major Audie Murphy, Medal of Honor recipient and the “most decorated” soldier of World War II, be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to those who have made significant contributions to the security and/or national interest of the nation, world peace or for lifetime achievement in other cultural or significant public or private endeavors.
Following World War II Audie Murphy went on to a successful career as a film star appearing in 44 feature films, most of them westerns. He appeared on television making guest appearances, wrote poetry, country music and raised champion quarter horses and thoroughbreds.
Audie Murphy – a pioneer in PTSD awareness
Although the name of Audie Murphy would certainly merit consideration for this most prestigious honor for his many contributions to American culture and his Hollywood career, the petition and recommendation, is based on a much more complex issue, one that Murphy assuredly had a significant role in raising awareness of…Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (PTSD).
In his endorsement of Audie Murphy, former Sen. Bob Dole, referred in part to Murphy as a “true pioneer in PTSD awareness.” Sen. Dole is a disabled World War II combat veteran and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom as well.
While Audie Murphy’s name is known to many, it is almost unknown to the average American that Murphy suffered from PTSD. Beginning after World War II and continuing throughout his life Murphy became one of the first veterans to speak of PTSD.
Over the last years of his life Audie Murphy often reflected on war and its toll on the human mind. Murphy displayed remarkable courage during an era when it was deemed “unmanly” to show perceived weakness and speak about what was then only known as “shell-shock.”
In the years immediately following World War II, “shell-shock” was often associated with “cowardliness” or “physical weakness” but Murphy, while never glamorizing his own heroism, managed to parlay his international stardom and name recognition to his advantage and helped turn the tables on the stigma often associated with PTSD. He spoke candidly with the media about the emotional effects of the war and the nightmares associated with it.
In doing so, Audie Murphy served as an advocate for returning veterans of both the Korean and Vietnam wars and helped bring the issue of PTSD and the need for early diagnosis and treatment of this illness into the mainstream of American society.
In a 1955 interview at the time of the release of his now indelible appearance in the autobiographical film “To Hell and Back,” Murphy remarked that “War is like a giant pack rat. It takes something from you and leaves something behind in its stead. It burned me out in some ways so that now I feel like an old man but still sometimes act like a dumb kid. It made me grow up too fast. You live so much on nervous excitement that when it is over, you fall apart. That’s what war took from me, the excitement of living.”
In 1961 he offered forth the following commentary: “After the war, they took the dogs and rehabilitated them for civilian life. But they turned soldiers into civilians and let ‘em sink or swim.”
Audie Murphy is credited by the Army with having killed more than 240 of the enemy while wounding more than 500 and capturing about 100. Some years after the war when asked by a reporter how the Army could arrive at such casualty figures Murphy retorted, “I don’t know how they know. Maybe the War Department kept count somehow. Maybe the officers sent in totals. I didn’t keep count. I don’t know how many. I don’t want to know.”
In a subsequent interview when asked the question “How does it feel to have killed 240 men?” Murphy remarked, “To begin with, I didn’t kill that many; how the hell does anyone think it felt. It didn’t feel either way; good or bad. Feeling wasn’t a luxury in the infantry.”
Perhaps one of his more eloquent and reflective statements came in a 1967 interview by Thomas Morgan of the Chicago Times. In the interview Audie Murphy stated, “To become an executioner, somebody cold and analytical, to be trained to kill, and then to return to civilian life and be alone in the crowd—-it takes an awful long time to get over it. Fear and depression come over you. It’s been twenty-odd years already, and the doctors say the effect of all this on my generation won’t reach its peak until 1970. So, I guess I got three years to go.”
Sadly though and almost prophetically, Audie Murphy had only four years remaining in his own life, four years in which to ride the emotional roller-coaster of mental anguish agitated by his own inner turmoil and the demons that haunted his sleepless nights.
Murphy over the course of almost 25 years, beginning with the release of his memoirs in 1949, attempted to show the brutality of war and the mental toll war exerts on a soldier. In almost every memorable interview he would bring up the subject of “shell-shock” and the nightmares in order to inform the public of the affects of war on the human spirit.
Near the end of his short life, Audie Murphy was asked in an interview “How does a soldier get over a war” to which the ever sad Murphy lowered his head and with a barely audible voice reflected, “I don’t think they ever do.”
His first wife, the actress Wanda Hendrix, offered this poignant but sad commentary on Murphy following his death: “Audie had a beautiful smile, unfortunately he didn’t smile much.”
Audie Murphy – his legacy continues
Honors are rendered and tributes bestowed by great societies so that we may remember the person; and the accomplishments of that person’s life and in doing so perpetuate their memory for future generations. Audie Murphy has certainly been accorded many tributes over the years since his untimely passing and his legacy continues to grow with the passage of time.
The name of Audie Murphy has been cited in the Congressional Record on numerous occasions. Additionally, he has had schools, monuments, markers, highways, bridges, a Veterans Administration hospital and numerous facilities on military installations named in his honor. The Army today has the “Sergeant Audie Murphy Club” to honor its most distinguished non-commissioned officers.
Audie Murphy has further received a “Star” on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.
In addition, in 1995 he was honored with postage stamps by the governments of Guyana, Nevis and Sierra Leone. In 2000 he was finally honored with a commemorative United States postage stamp as a testament to his status as an iconic figure in American history.
Most recently, the author lead a national campaign to have Audie Murphy awarded the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, the supreme military honor in the state of Texas. That campaign resulted in Gov. Rick Perry posthumously bestowing Major Murphy the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor this past month.
Perhaps his single greatest honor is having been laid to rest after his untimely death in a plane crash at age 46 at Arlington National Cemetery. He lies amongst those that represent the finest in America, and Audie Murphy was certainly one of the finest of America’s soldiers and one of the greatest of our nation’s heroes.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom would be one final fitting honor for Audie Murphy, one that would honor not only all veterans, but those afflicted by the emotional tolls of war and suffer with PTSD. In doing that he may once again be remembered, not only by the citizens of Texas, but all Americans. This would most certainly be the greatest of Murphy's many honors and assuredly his greatest legacy. Undoubtedly, he would be most proud to be honored as the "poster boy" for all veterans who suffer with this debilitating illness.
President Obama would be well served in honoring the life and remarkable legacy of the indelible Audie Murphy, one who has been overlooked by every previous president for this honor since his untimely passing in 1971.
The petition is due to close in the coming days and the formal recommendation submitted to the White House for action.