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Description

During the Revolutionary War, General George Washington wanted to recognize soldiers for their merit but was not allowed to do this by promoting them. So, on August 7, 1782, Washington ordered the establishment of the Badge of Military Merit. He in part said, "The General ever desirous to cherish virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species of Military merit, directs that whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings over the left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth, or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding." Washington presented three soldiers with the badge and said the award should be permanent. But, as the Revolutionary War ended, it did not continue being used.

It was not until 1932 that the Purple Heart began being given out, on the bicentennial of Washington's birth, and being inspired by his Badge of Military Merit. Its design was created by Ms. Elizabeth Will, and consists of a purple enamel heart with George Washington at its center, with a bronze border. Washington's family's coat of arms is also on the medal. On February 22, 1932, General Douglas MacArthur, while Chief of Staff of the US Army, issued General Order #3, which said, "By order of the President of the United States, the Purple Heart, established by General George Washington at Newburgh, August 7, 1782, during the War of the Revolution is hereby revived out of respect to his memory and military achievements."

The Purple Heart was originally given out for merit and to those who were wounded, but after the Legion of Merit was created in 1942, it was no longer given out for merit. It is now awarded to any member of the armed forces who has been wounded or killed in battle, or who died after being wounded in battle. Over time, the scope of who receives it has expanded. For example, it was originally only for Army and Army Air Corps personnel and was not given out posthumously. President Roosevelt issued an executive order allowing the Purple Heart to be given out to members of all branches of service of the armed forces in 1942. It also began being given out posthumously that year. It is now also given out to POWs, as well as those affected by terrorism and friendly fire.

Purple Heart Day is observed next on Wednesday, August 7th, 2019. It has been observed annually on August 7th since 2014.

How to Observe

Observe the day by remembering those who sacrificed for their country. Some were injured, and some paid the ultimate sacrifice. In addition to paying your respects, you could visit the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, or support veterans by donating to The Purple Heart Foundation.

Occurrence Patterns

ObservedFirst YearLast Year
annually on August 7th2014-

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