When I read the article by David H. Hackworth on the U.S. Army's awarding the Purple Heart medal to a soldier who suffered heat prostration during the Panama invasion, I saw purple {"The Purple Heart Takes a Hit; Awarding It for Heat Stroke Debases Another Proud Medal," Outlook, Aug. 12}!

As a Vietnam vet and an ex-Marine sergeant, I cannot tell you how many heat casualties I saw while assigned to the Third Marine Division in northern I-Corps from January '68 to February '69. Not only were there no "ruffles and flourishes" for these poor devils, but they were usually back with their units in the bush within 48 hours "humping the boonies" with the rest of us. They usually recovered within a short period of time, and, believe me they learned how to avoid being affected by the extremes of the weather after that.

I couldn't agree more with Col. Hackworth's opinion and hope like hell that those bumbling U.S. Army officials in Texas "pull their heads out" far enough to see what a stupid thing they have done and retract what they did. Or at the very least, that Pvt. Gipe realizes that it was a sham and returns the award. JOHN WEAR Washington

Interesting tirade by retired Col. David H. Hackworth. Obviously a hero is someone with a medal. Is a person with a medal a hero?

Col. Hackworth makes me wonder if he thinks the purpose of war is to produce heroes. Then certainly the awarding of medals may be increased by expanding conflict, as in any production scheme. The question remains for politicians: Just how many heroes does a nation need? And how many monuments, memorials, libraries, statues, tributes and medals?

Cincinnatus, one of the heroes of early Rome, went back to his small farm after defeating the enemy. He must have thought there is more nobility in tilling the soil than in polishing medals.