WOODBURY - A federal bill that would make it illegal to sell Purple Heart medals has pitted veterans and military collectors against one another.
"They market something that I spilled blood for," says Connie Steers, a Hicksville resident who received a Purple Heart after becoming injured by sniper fire in the Vietnam War. "I think they could collect, but don't make a profit off our blood."
Steers, who spent 10 months recovering from his injuries at the Norfolk Naval Hospital, says he is a strong supporter of the Purple Heart Preservation Bill. It would ban anyone from selling, buying, trading, importing or exporting the medals.
Local collectors say the medals are a show of patriotism.
"Coming from a military family, I was always fascinated by the armed forces," says Pat Testa, of West Islip. "It's no different than tying a yellow ribbon to a tree or slapping a 'Support Our Troops' sticker to the bumper of my car."
Testa has six Purple Hearts in his collection, which he says he purchased for as little as $50 to as much as $400.
"They're insulting us," Steers says.
Violators of the proposed law would be subject to fines and possible imprisonment.