WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush has asked Private Deanna Allen, the winsome Camp Bucca flasher, to return the purple heart she has been wearing on the army's mud wrestling circuit in Iraq. Allen, who wrestles in the D-cup class, wears the medal pinned to her sports bra during matches.
"I call it my hillbilly under-armor," said Allen, 19, a native of Black Mountain, N.C.
Allen first caught the public eye last weekend when the New York Daily News published a photo of her flashing fellow soldiers at a Halloween mud wrestling tournament at Camp Bucca, a prison compound in southern Iraq. The photo, which did not identify Allen, was part of the Daily News weekend edition's Name that Soldier contest. Allen's mother, Ladyna Waldrop, who happened to be visiting New York with the ladies auxiliary of Black Mountain Fire and Rescue, was the fifteenth caller with the correct identification. She won a $50 gift certificate from Wal-Mart and dinner for two at Red Lobster.
President Bush told reporters he was not concerned about the mud wrestling tournaments. "The spread of democracy can be messy at times," he said. "Besides, the soldiers were just blowing off a little steam. My daughters did the same thing when they were in college. The purple heart deal, though, is a violation of military dress code."
Allen responded angrily to the president's request. "If he wants the damn medal so bad, let him come over here and wrestle me for it," she declared.
What most observers want to know-apart from Allen's e-mail address-is what the bright, patriotic high school valedictorian with SAT scores in the 1400s did to merit the purple heart. Initial reports said it belonged to her boyfriend, but Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has a different explanation.
"How'd she receive the medal?" Rumsfeld asked reporters at a news conference yesterday. "How'd she receive it? I'll tell you how. By mistake."
Rumsfeld then explained that Allen had received the purple heart after being hospitalized in Iraq last July with a four-inch gash over her left breast. A male nurse at the hospital, whom Allen had started dating shortly after being admitted, thought the wound was combat related. He filled out routine paperwork nominating Allen for a purple heart, which the army routinely awarded. When Allen told him the "wound" was actually a hickey she had suffered after doing bong hits at a Fourth of July party in Baghdad, the nurse became jealous and blew the whistle on her.
Allen, who is still a guard at Camp Bucca, has been placed on restriction and will not be able to compete in the mud wrestling championships to be held in Baghdad in April. Her grandmother Mavis Tomlin thinks that restriction is unfair.
"She can't help it if she is built like the proverbial ... well, you know," said Tomlin to a reporter from the Black Mountain Monthly News. "She gets a lot of male attention."
Tomlin said her granddaughter had a troubled childhood and was "very stressed out" being so far away from her family. "It's a shame," Tomlin said. "You take away the guys and the booze and she'd take on Saddam Hussein himself. I don't mean in the biblical sense, of course, I mean wrestling-wise."
In related news, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has offered to resign over the Allen incident.