Each year on August 7th, the nation pauses to remember and pay homage to the brave men and women who were either wounded on the battlefield or paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.
However, many may not know The Purple Heart medal has the distinction of being the oldest medal awarded to military personnel that is still in use. General George Washington created the Badge of Military Merit as a means to honor non-commissioned and enlisted soldiers for their meritorious service (which included being wounded) or meritorious action (i.e., bravery or valor).
From Professor Ray Raymond’s history of the Purple Heart entitled, The Badge of Military Merit:
The original badge was made of purple silk edged with silver colored lace or binding on a wool background. One was embroidered with a leaf design; another has the word “merit” crocheted into the fabric. The heart symbolized courage and devotion. Purple was associated with royalty and would stand out on any uniform.
The Badge of Military Merit was awarded to only three personnel for their service and was soon forgotten. However, General Douglas MacArthur revived the Purple Heart on February 22, 1932, the bicentennial of Washington’s birthday, awarding it to combat wounded or those killed in the line of duty. MacArthur also made the award retroactive to those soldiers injured in World War I.
And, as of June 5, 2015, Wikipedia shows an estimated total of 1,910,162 military personnel have received the Purple Heart.
The qualifications for receiving a PH have properly been updated over time. The most recent have occurred over the last eight years. The Department of Defense authorized the PH to be awarded for:
• October 1, 2008: prisoners of war (POWs) who subsequently died in captivity.
• September 2, 2010: those suffering from Agent Orange and other other herbicide exposures.
• May 25, 2011: a “non-penetrating wound” such as concussions and mild traumatic brain injury (TBI).
• February 6, 2015: those wounded or killed by certain kinds domestic terrorist activities.
The latter concerned those members of the military killed and wounded by radical Muslim jihadist U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan who yelled “allahu akbar” before his attack at Fort Hood, Texas, on November 5, 2009. Congress fixed this travesty after President Obama’s Department of Defense originally announced that the attack was due to “workplace violence”.
One important update: The Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) recently reported to its members information about a Purple Heart Phone Scam:
a telephone scam being conducted in its name. Unknown individuals have been cold-calling people across the United States, often from 315-516-2512, and requesting donations for the upcoming presidential election. The callers say they’re doing so on behalf of MOPH and mention the name of the group’s national commander, Robert Puskar. “These calls are a hoax.”
The announcement also asks everyone to contact local authorities if they receive such a call!
We veterans always appreciate those of you who take the time to greet us and say, “Thank you for your service” – wearing or not wearing a cap signifying we received a Purple Heart medal.