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Medal workers

Purple Heart medals in an early stage waiting for enamelingdetail work, the purple heart, and George Washington's head. Photo by Bethany J. Thomas

factory that manufactures the Purple Heart. Inside the Graco Awards plant, we found many employees just like Janette Harper - patriotic and very proud of what they do.

Janette is the supervisor of what they call "the cavern." It's the place where all the enamaling and soldering is done for the medals. It's nicknamed for being a quiet oasis found through several doors among the loud machinery in the rest of the plant. Once inside, you'll find women bent over magnifying glasses enamaling by hand medals created at the plant.  Janette is also the mother of two sons in the military.  One of her sons has actually received several Navy awards she made and Janette said that made the job all the more special.

The Purple Heart is one of 5,000 medals, including the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the plant is contracted to produce. We asked to see a Medal of Honor, but learned that medal was highly protected by the government.  Whenever the Texas plant has a contract for a Medal of Honor, they are required to send any of the leftover scrap parts back to the military.  They are not allowed to even display a sample medal along with the hundreds of other medals on the wall in their front office.

We also learned that demand for the Purple Heart is up -- but it's not necessarily due to all of the wounded in the current combat zone.  Many older veterans have shown a new sense of pride in their old honor.  Especially given today's patriotic mood compared to the early return days of Vietnam. Back then, many either lost of simply threw away the medals as they didn't mean a lot to them at the time.  Now, veterans and family members are clamoring to hold the Purple Hearts in their hands again.