Families of 'fragging' victims fight for Purple Hearts

Posted: Updated:

The relatives of two officers from the Hudson Valley who were killed in Iraq in a "fragging" incident are demanding Purple Hearts for their service.

First Lt. Lou Allen, of Chester, was killed in 2005 together with Capt. Phillip Esposito when a Claymore mine was thrown into their room.

"They died heroes," says Laurene Sandstrom, Allen's sister. "It should be a no-brainer."

However, the families' requests for the medals have been denied on the basis that the military generally reserves the Purple Heart for soldiers killed or injured while fighting the enemy. Allen and Esposito allegedly died at the hands of a fellow soldier.

Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez was charged with detonating the mine that killed Allen and Esposito, but he was acquitted in December, leaving the men's deaths unresolved.

The slain soldiers' families have enlisted the help of state and federal lawmakers, including Rep. John Hall, in their fight for Purple Hearts.

"Lt. Allen deserves a Purple Heart, and we'll do everything we can to try to make that happen," Hall says.

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