Purple Heart Day 2021
Purple Heart Day is observed on August 7 each year and is a time for Americans to remember and honor the brave men and women who were either wounded on the battlefield or paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives. This special day is also known as National Purple Heart Day. Purple Heart Recognition Day, and Purple Heart Appreciation Day.
History of Purple Heart Day
The original Purple Heart, designated as a Badge of Merit, was awarded by George Washington in 1782. There was a lack of funds in the Continental Army at the time so the award was a way to honor enlisted and deserving people. The honor is presented to soldiers for “any singularly meritorious action.” It was designed with a piece of silk bound through it with a thin edge of silver. Washington only gave out three of the badges himself, and instead authorized subordinates to issue the badges as they saw fit.
The Badge of Merit
The Badge of Merit faded from use but was revived and relaunched in 1932, this time as the Purple Heart. As well as honoring those wounded in combat, this iteration of the Purple Heart recognized commendable action. It was in 1944 that the policy was tweaked slightly and the Purple Heart was given the purpose we know it for today, specifically to honor those who have been wounded or died.
The first service member to be given the modern Purple Heart was General Douglas MacArthur for his service in the Pacific theater during World War II. In total there have been 1.8 million Purple Hearts awarded over the years.
Purple Heart Day was first observed in 2014 and has been observed every year since. It’s a chance to reflect on the bravery of those who have fought for the U.S. and to ensure that their courage is never forgotten.
When Was the First Purple Heart Awarded?
The first Purple Heart ever awarded was called the Badge of Military Merit at the time. General George Washington established it to recognize heroic acts by his troops during the American Revolution. On August 7, 1782, he issued the first three Badges of Military Merit, which were purple cloth patches in the shape of a heart.
How Do You Earn a Purple Heart, Today?
After all of that change, what’s the bottom line? To be eligible for a Purple Heart Medal today, one must meet the following criteria.
Served or serving in the U.S. Armed Services after April 5, 1917
Wounded or killed:
- During action against an enemy of the United States
- During an action with an opposing armed force in a foreign country
- While serving with friendly forces in an armed conflict against an opposing force
- As a result of an act of an enemy or hostile foreign force.
Why is the Purple Heart Purple?
One contemporary interpretation of the color of the Purple Heart is that the color represents the blood of all those who have made sacrifices in World War II, but traditionally the color is thought to represent the courage of those who serve.
The original color of the Badge of Military Merit was purple, so it is logical that when the Purple Heart was created to celebrate George Washington’s bicentennial, the original color of the medal he created would be used to honor his memory.
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