August 7th is Purple Heart Day. On this day, we have the privilege of honoring American soldiers who were injured or killed in combat. The Purple Heart is the oldest military honor that is still awarded. Since the beginning of our country, millions of people have put themselves in mortal danger to help fight for and preserve the freedoms and liberties we enjoy everyday.
History of the Purple Heart Award
On August 7, 1782, General George Washington created the Badge for Military Merit. This badge was awarded to soldiers for “any singularly meritorious action”. The badge, itself, was a purple heart shaped piece of silk, with Merit stitched across the face and with a narrow silver binding and edging.
General Washington personally awarded only three soldiers with the badge, although he authorized his subordinate officers to award the badge as appropriate.
The Badge for Military Merit was never abolished, but it was not used again until after World War I. In the preceding conflicts injured soldiers were awarded different decorations.
General MacArthur led efforts to reinstate the Purple Heart in honor of the bicentennial of George Washington’s birthday. He was successful and on February 22, 1932 the Purple Heart was created to honor people injured or killed in combat.
The Design of the Modern Purple Heart
The modern design of the Purple Heart resembles the original Badge for Military Merit created by George Washington. The award features a gold colored bust of George Washington against a purple heart shaped field. The heart is edged in gold and affixed to a purple ribbon with white edging.
How Many People Have Been Awarded the Purple Heart?
General MacArthur received the first Purple Heart for injuries incurred during World War I. When the award was revived in 1932, any soldier that had been injured in any conflict, and could prove they received wounds that required seeing a medic, was given the award. This included veterans from World War I, the Civil War, and the Mexican War. No posthumous Purple Hearts were given at that time.
In the early days of the revived Purple Heart, accurate records were not kept. It is estimated that 1.8 million Purple Hearts have been awarded. Over 1 million Purple Hearts alone were awarded in World War II.
During conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, over 42,000 Purple Hearts were awarded.
Nobody can receive more than one Purple Heart. But, subsequent combat injuries are acknowledged with a gold leaf cluster that is pinned to the ribbon of the Purple Heart.
How to Honor America’s Bravest on Purple Heart Day
Purple Heart Day is a chance to reflect on the noble sacrifice so many have made for this country. Some ways to honor Purple Heart recipients include:
Posts on Social Media
Visiting with Veterans
Decorating Graves of Purple Heart Recipients with Flowers
Talking to Veterans in Your Community
Service Projects to Help Veterans
The most important ways to honor the sacrifices of Purple Heart recipients are to simply remember the true cost of freedom and to be grateful for all those willing to make the sacrifices that freedom requires.