Inspired by her dedication to military service members, Army veteran Al Lee gave his Purple Heart coin to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after being attacked during a "Congress on Your Corner" event on January 8.
As reported by an article in the Tucson Sentinel, Lee was awarded the Purple Heart for an injury sustained while deployed in Iraq in 2003.
Lee dedicated it to Giffords, telling the Sentinel,
"I wanted her to have it because of her strong support of veterans and her ability to always recognize a military servicemember such as myself."
According to Lee, Giffords deserved the Purple Heart for the injury she sustained "in the line of duty."
Throughout her political career, Giffords has been an ardent supporter of both active military members and veterans. Prior to her injury, she advocated heavily to support military personnel and their families.
A statement released by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) on January 10 highlights the military community's appreciation for her work:
"She represents nearly 100,000 veterans in her district, and we are grateful for her dedicated leadership and commitment to our community. This past year, Giffords authored six critical bills addressing veterans' transition home, mental health, housing for military families and upgrades to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Recently, Congresswoman Giffords introduced two key bills to fund scholarships for mental health professionals serving at Vet Centers and expand Department of Defense/VA grants for nonprofits supporting active duty service members and their families."
Giffords serves on the Committee of Armed Services and is the founder of the Congressional Military Family Caucus. Her husband, Mark Kelly, is an astronaut and previously, a U.S. Navy captain.
In the past year, Giffords proposed legislation to assist homeless veterans.
"It now is essential that we, as a nation, do everything possible to help veterans who are homeless get the training they need to find employment in the civilian workforce."
She also authored a bill to ease the transition for military members returning to civilian life by providing housing resources.
This is not the first instance that military personnel have stepped up to show their appreciation for Giffords. CNN reports that soon after Giffords was attacked, the military sent two specially trained combat medics to treat her.
Another Purple Heart honoree also anonymously left a medal for her at the hospital after the shooting, the Tucson Sentinel reports. Her staff still has not identified the contributor, but keeps the medal next to her bedside. It serves as a reminder of the support and appreciation felt on behalf of military service men and women who have been affected by her work.
On Wednesday, Al Lee presented the pin to Giffords' aid, Pam Simon, who serves on Giffords' Veteran's Advisory Committee.
Simon, who was also shot during the attack on January 8, told Fox Tucson News,
"It holds extra meaning because, I've said before, that in a very small way, experiencing that trauma has given me an understanding, just a little bit, of what our men and women go through."
Giffords is still fighting to recover, but doctors have reported that she is making incredible progress. She has even recovered enough to be approved to make the trip to Cape Canaveral, Florida where her husband, Captain Mark Kelly will be commanding space shuttle, Endeavor, set to launch April 19.